ROXBURY - A development project at an old landfill in Morris County could be making people sick, a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds.
Since November, homeowners have been complaining about fumes from the old Fenimore Landfill, which is being redeveloped into a solar panel field. "We can't even sit outside, not even for five minutes," Roxbury homeowner Shannon Caccavella says. Her 9-year-old daughter suffers from such severe headaches her doctor has told her to wear a surgical mask while she waits for the school bus.
Other families are complaining as well. Roxbury resident Janet Lemma says the fumes are causing "migraine headaches. respiratory issues (and) burning eyes.” Roxbury's health department even sent a letter to every doctor in town, warning them that the landfill is emitting hydrogen sulfide, a gas that smells like rotten eggs that has been linked to respiratory problems. Documents obtained by Kane In Your Corner show an air quality monitor installed by the town has registered hydrogen sulfide readings more than four times the safe limit.
The Fenimore Landfill stopped accepting trash in the 1970s, but it was never officially closed. Last year, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection agreed to allow the property's current owner, Strategic Environmental Partners, to close it and install solar panels on the site. But the company, run by Richard Bernardi, is also being allowed to dump more than a million tons of new construction debris on the site. Homeowners say that's when the health problems began.
After first approving the project, the Department of Environmental Protection is now trying to stop any additional dumping, but the case is tied up in court. The owner of the property argues DEP rules don't apply to older landfills like Fenimore.
This week, homeowners got what might appear to be a victory when a judge ruled the landfill can begin testing an industrial strength deodorant. But the deodorant, potassium permanganate, has also been linked to respiratory problems, and homeowners are afraid it might make the health concerns even worse.
"People are looking at it as: it's the smell, it's the rotten egg smell," Caccavella says. "It's the health factor. That's what we're worried about; our children and our lives."