ROXBURY - Residents in Roxbury are rallying tonight over worsening conditions at the Fenimore Landfill.
The rally comes just as news surfaced that the former owners of Fenimore Landfill, Marilyn and Richard Bernardi, filed a federal lawsuit against the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Roxbury Township and state Sen. Anthony Bucco over the state takeover of the site.
The state took the site over on June 26 under a new law passed as a result of the Kane in Your Corner investigation that exposed air quality problems and serious irregularities in a development project at the site. Since then, the DEP has covered the landfill with a concrete mixture and used flares to burn off hydrogen sulfide gas.
DEP contractors are now working on installing a permanent gas removal system. But eight weeks later, homeowners say the problem is actually worse now than when the DEP took over.
Neighbor Kathleen Toland says the odor is choking, and her children cover their faces and shout for her to drive faster when they pass nearby.
DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese says the agency's workers and outside contractors are doing everything they can. He says crews are working around the clock to come up with the most effective gas remediation system possible.
Air quality monitors continue to register dangerously high levels of hydrogen sulfide and residents have repeatedly had to evacuate their homes and take shelter in the town's respite center.
"It was supposed to get better in weeks and it's been eight weeks," says Gabriela Schmidt. "So it's been a lot longer timeframe than they originally gave us, which makes me believe that they just don't really have it under control."
Kane in Your Corner exposed how the man behind the project, Richard Bernardi, signed legal documents claiming to be the director and managing member of the company that owned the property.
As a convicted felon, Bernardi should have been disqualified from operating a landfill according to state law.
Some neighbors are not so sure anything will change. "I don't think the state or anybody else can do anything at this particular point," says Roxbury resident Matthew McClosky. "I think we're going to have to live with this for quite some time."