CLOSER TO CLOSURE

State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen), along with Sens. Brian Stack (D-Union City) and Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) have introduced a resolution to the Environment & Energy Committee of the State Senate urging the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the Department of Environmental Protection to immediately close and cap the Keegan Landfill in Kearny.

The non-binding document, State Concurrent Resolution (SCR) No. 180 (of 2019) is co-sponsored by Sacco and Stack with the support of Cunningham. And here’s how it works.

According to Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos, the resolution will first be discussed and voted upon by members of the Senate’s Environment and Energy Committee. That committee does not have a meeting scheduled anytime in the foreseeable future, according to Santos, but the mayor says he hopes its chairman, Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) will call for a meeting sometime soon.

The Senate is in session until early November when it will break for the 2019 election. It then comes back for a lame-duck session following the election, but before January 2020.

Should Environment and Energy discuss and vote the resolution out of committee, it would then be offered to the entire State Senate and it is only Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney (D-West Deptford), the senate president, who could schedule the resolution for a full vote.

If and when that occurs, and presuming it passes the entire senate, it would then head to the State Assembly, where the exact same process would be undertaken. It wouldn’t go to a full Assembly vote until it gets out of committee. The Speaker of the Assembly, Craig J. Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), would then be required to put the resolution on the Assembly’s voting agenda.

“This landfill must be closed. Kids enjoying recess or playing soccer should not be overwhelmed by the smell of rotten eggs,” Sacco said. “It has become a serious public nuisance in the area and it must be addressed. That is why I am working with the Hudson County executive and my counterparts in the Assembly to pass similar resolutions pressuring NJSEA and DEP to close and cap the landfill.”

So, while the news is great that Kearny’s representative in the State Senate has put this forth in a resolution, it could be some time before it gets final approval. And, since it’s non-binding, the NJSEA and/or the NJDEP could, in essence, simply ignore it. That, of course, would be foolish, especially based on the optics, says Santos, who worked along with Sacco and members of his Senate staff to carefully craft the resolution before it was proffered.

Concurrently, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders last week unanimously voted to  approve a similar resolution calling for the cap-and-closure of the Keegan. That resolution was put forth by Freeholder Albert J. Cifelli, of Kearny, and it was seconded by all of the remaining freeholders, according to Santos, who dubs as the freeholders’ clerk.

Cifelli has stood steadfastly with West Hudson in its quest to close the Keegan and marched with residents in April.

Meanwhile, the NJSEA, last week, sent out a press release to the media to note that the gas-collection system it’s been installing since July is now operational and ahead of schedule. But that’s not sitting well with Santos since the NJSEA still hasn’t referred to the situation as anything but an odor nuisance.

But before we get to Santos’s remarks, here’s what the NJSEA said first.

“The system was designed for the purpose of collecting, containing and destroying landfill gas, particularly hydrogen sulfide, which can migrate off-site and cause an unpleasant rotten-egg or sulfur-like odor in the surrounding community,” the authority said in its release. “The NJSEA has been working expeditiously to combat this odor problem in order to provide relief and a solution for affected area residents.

“The data collected by the perimeter monitoring stations located on the landfill have already shown significantly reduced hydrogen sulfide emissions emanating from the landfill. These lowered emissions have reduced the incidences of exceedances registered and reported to the NJDEP. The gas collection system must be adjusted carefully to ensure efficient collection of landfill gas, taking up to a few weeks to be fully balanced. Although the operations are at an early stage, the system is working as anticipated. Additionally, the NJSEA has been taking other measures to maintain compliance with NJDEP’s regulations, including placement of additional cover material on the landfill surface.

Notice the NJSEA referred to this as “an odor problem,” and not the health crisis that it continues to be, despite the landfill being temporarily closed.

“Why, just this past Tuesday, (did) they (go) over 30 ppb?” Santos said. “As temperature cools and major rain events are less frequent in autumn, then H2S emissions will be less irrespective of the gas collection system. So how much is gas collection system and how much is weather?

“… No authority or basis is provided for the NJSEA’s statement that a gas-collection system also is the ‘the best engineering practice to address the situation,’” Santos said. “That’s because there is none. Poisonous gasses will continue to emit from the landfill as the NJSEA plays ‘catch a mole’ with their gas-collection system. As is being done at the 1D Landfill, and as was done at the Fenimore Landfill, the engineering solution for the elimination of hydrogen sulfide requires an impermeable cap over the landfill surface so that gasses don’t escape and moisture doesn’t enter the landfill.

“… The NJSEA must be held accountable for what they’re doing to our community.”

That same NJSEA meets a day earlier than originally scheduled this month, on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 10 a.m. at the Environment Center at 2 DeKorte Park Plaza in Lyndhurst. Santos urges anyone who can attend the meeting to do just that since it is now, more than ever, that the NJSEA needs to be fully aware that locals have not given up the fight to cap and close the landfill because of the resolution — or because the case to close it is still in litigation in Hudson County court.

“Yes, we need folks to come Wednesday,” the mayor said. “NJSEA’s spin and distortions are frustrating. But they will continue to hear from us. If you can, join us at the next NJSEA meeting, Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 10 a.m.”

A bus for those without transport will leave from Kearny Town Hall, 402 Kearny Ave., at 9:30 a.m.

 

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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.