New Jersey landfill under fire for mid-inspection sewage violation
- Local officials in Kearny, New Jersey are calling for closure of the Keegan Landfill — owned by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) and operated by Waste Management — following revelations of illegal sewage dumping in 2018, as reported by The Record.
- NJSEA received a violation from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in Aug. 2018 for accepting what was deemed "liquid sewage sludge material" from a local wastewater treatment plant during a July inspection visit.
- Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos recently posted footage obtained from a public records request, identifying the alleged sewage dumping as the possible source of ongoing area odors. "It was a very orchestrated operation," said Santos, who is demanding a criminal investigation. "They were accepting an illegal substance, and there is reason to believe they have been doing it for quite a while."
NJSEA classified the substance in question as "dry industrial waste" during the inspection, and Director of Solid Waste and Natural Resources Thomas Marturano continued to deny the allegations in a Sept. 13 response, maintaining "liquid sewage sludge" had never been accepted at the facility. (New Jersey prohibited sewage sludge from being dumped in landfills in 1985 under the state Solid Waste Management Act.) No monetary penalties were issued against the authority at the time.
The illegal dumping allegations have stoked long-simmering tensions between Kearny residents and the 110-acre Keegan Landfill. The site, which generated $17.7 million in tip fees last year for the sports authority, was originally scheduled to be shuttered in June 2016; however, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled in 2016 against closure, citing the "drastic and deleterious effects" it would have on surrounding communities and taxpayers.
This latest development, however, could potentially provide Kearny officials with greater leverage against the sports authority. As noted in the mayor's Jan. 24 Facebook post, neighbors have complained for months of "sulfurous odors" emanating from the landfill.
DEP and the Hudson Regional Health Commission once again inspected the landfill last week following the mayor's social media reference to persistent odor issues. According to an authority spokesman, no violations were found.
Keegan Landfill is one thread in a growing tapestry of odor-related landfill-community feuds across the country. The last landfill in the Meadowlands area — and one of the few remaining active disposal sites in the New York metro region — its fate appears increasingly uncertain in the face of intensifying public pressure.
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