A state Appellate court reversed a lower-court’s decision to close the Keegan landfill through most of July, but the town will appeal that court’s reversal, potentially before the highest court in New Jersey, the state Supreme Court.

In a decision handed down by Judges Jose Fuentes and Francis Vernoia on Friday, May 31, exactly a week after Judge Jeff Jablonski ordered the landfill closed, the landfill immediately reopened.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, in its briefs to the appellate court, wrote that the Town of Kearny did not present “expert certification to show that there was an imminent threat to human health or the environment.”

One day after the NJSEA’s appeal was submitted, however, there was a report of a reading of hydrogen sulfide in excess of 800 parts per billion, which is more than 26 times the actionable level according to standards set by the State of New Jersey.

Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos, though disappointed in the appellate court’s decision not to affirm Judge Jablonski’s ruling, says the Town of Kearny will fight in court.

“Disappointing news on the Keegan Landfill lawsuit — the appellate court reversed the temporary injunction closing the landfill largely on the premise that H2S emissions are from historical dumping and not current dumping,” Santos wrote in a Facebook post Friday, May 31. “We will now appeal that reversal since, as we saw at the protest, gypsum board was still coming in to the landfill, and it decomposes into H2S once it becomes anaerobic, which can be within months. The town was sustained on the portion of relief granting us access to NJSEA’s records and emails with the DEP but that does little to soothe the reversal on the temporary closure. Next step is NJ Supreme Court on an emergent basis.”

The disappointment following the appellate court’s reversal was palpable Friday afternoon.

Council President Carol Jean Doyle chimed in in response to Santos’s social-media post.

“So disrespectful,” Doyle said. “We need to continue the pressure and off to the NJ Supreme Court (we go). Disappointing, yes, (as) we are in this to win for the residents of Kearny. We stand next to you and behind you, Mayor Santos.”

Julie McCarthy, who once ran the Kearny Public Library, questioned the rationale behind the appellate court’s decision to overturn, in response to Santos’s post.

“This reasoning is absurd,” McCarthy said. “They are admitting there are illegal and poisonous emissions. So whether from historic or current dumping (we know they are current), the landfill needs to be closed and capped. End of story. This landfill was due to close in 2015! In addition, there is proof that the dumping is not clean and that it is breaking down into into H2S emissions currently — setting the stage for future emissions. What gives with this ridiculous answer?”

Cristina Montague, a civilian who has organized the protest at the landfill, the petition drive in Kearny among many other things, reminded residents that now is not the time for complacency — instead, it’s quite the opposite.

“It is imperative that we keep the pressure on and continue to raise our voices in our united message — that our health and the health of our children matter more than profit,” Montague said. “We’ve made great strides in the last several months and we can’t back down now. There have been developments that indicate our voices are being heard, so we must continue to push forward until an impermeable cap is installed and the landfill is closed permanently.

“The community has done and continues to do an incredible job of coming together, whether it be attending NJSEA meetings, sending letters, making phone calls, distributing flyers and participating in the protest … there has been an outstanding show of solidarity in the face of such adversity. We will not stop until Gov. (Phil) Murphy understands that what has been done to our community is a great injustice. We deserve to breathe clean air and to raise our families in a safe and healthy environment. ‘Business as usual’ is not acceptable anymore.”

Montague encourages residents to continue to fight by:

  • Signing the petition to Gov. Murphy. A link to the petition may be found at www.theobserver.com.
  • Sending a snail-mail letter to Murphy, a sample copy of which may be found at www.kearnynj.org.
  • Join the phone-call blitz by calling Murphy’s office, daily, at 609-292-6000.
  • Those affected by the odor should also continue to call the hotline at 201-817-9844 and send an email to the town at KeeganOdor@KearnyNJ.orgeach time you smell the odor.  Register complaints with the NJDEP at 877-927-6337.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Murphy last week meet with several of Hudson County’s mayors. Santos told The Observer he declined attending the get-together with the governor because Murphy has ignored his requests (phone calls, emails, etc.) for a one-on-one sitdown to discuss the landfill issue.

Harrison Mayor James A. Fife, however, was the lone West Hudson mayor to attend Murphy’s rendez-vous. Fife told The Observer the governor said he is aware of the situation at the Keegan and is “speaking to the right people” about the matter. (Perhaps the governor temporarily forgot he hasn’t yet spoken with Santos on the matter — wouldn’t one consider Santos one of the “right people” in this situation?

At any rate, The Observer will continue to follow this story and will bring you the latest in next week’s print edition, and as it happens in Live Video, social-media posts and at www.theobserver.com. Be sure to check often as this story is constantly developing. Also note — the next meeting of the NJSEA is at 10 a.m., Thursday, June 20, at the Meadowlands Environment Center, 2 DeKorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst. The meetings thereafter take place July 18, Sept. 19, Oct. 17, Nov. 21 and Dec. 19. There is no meeting scheduled for August.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.