DEP calls toxic landfill leachate “natural”
[Update: In response to critical comments: The focus of this post is not the oily sheen. Even though that sheen is located a couple of hundred feet downstream of an oil and gas distribution facility, the toe of slope of an old landfill, and old chemical drums, I do not disagree that it could be natural. Please focus on the the following questions:
- is the source of the flow a leachate seep? Or normal runoff, wetlands discharge, or ponding water?
- what is the source of the iron? Is it the landfill or is it natural? If it's natural, why is this the only place I see it a along the riverbank?
- was the vegetation killed by natural ponding water? Or by some toxic condition?
I came across this DEP whopper while reading the press clips this morning, and it pinned my lie detector meter: DEP: Scary orange goo near the Delaware River is just rust
ALEXANDRIA TWP. – The orange substance leaking from the landfill on the Frenchtown-Milford Road near H.J. Opdyke Lumber is harmless, said a spokesman from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Larry Ragonese said the bright orange rivulet trickling from the corner of the old Riegel Paper landfill into the Delaware River is rusted iron, not a toxic chemical. “Fortunately, it’s nothing bad”, he said. It’s a natural occurrence.”
Since when is landfill leachate a “natural occurrence“? On what basis and monitoring data has DEP claimed that this leachate is “nothing bad“? How does DEP know what was disposed of in that landfill? Has the landfill been properly closed in compliance with DEP regulations? What does the groundwater monitoring data say? Have the Delaware River and adjacent streams been sampled (water column and sediments)?
Despite the 95 degree heat and high humidity, I took a little ramble at that landfill today. I walked the perimeter of the landfill, the top of the landfill, the zone between the landfill and the river, a stream corridor just north of the landfill, and the Delaware River frontage. And what I saw was not pretty.
I saw several leachate seeps, that looked to be composed of ferrous metals and oily substances that created sheens on the water. (Landfill leachate is typically composed of a soup of toxic chemicals.) Vegetation adjacent to the seeps was completely dead. Leachate seeps were discharging directly to a stream from stream banks just north of the landfill. Leachate seeps were discharging directly to the Delaware River via overland flow just south of the landfill. Very old sediment control fences were down and totally ineffective. Any landfill cover and/or cap was breached in numerous places by roads, paths, and vegetation. I saw only one groundwater monitoring well, that was located on the eastern edge of the landfill, just off County Route 619, but none between the landfill and the Delaware River on the western landfill perimeter, the likely direction of groundwater flow. The monitoring well had not be sampled for some time (the lock was rusted), there were no security or public access controls (like a fence), no hazardous cleanup signs posted, and it looked like someone had recently attempted to locate monitoring wells because vegetation had recently been cleared in some areas. There appeared to be numerous violations of DEP regulations.
Based on the above observations and DEP press office “natural” comments, I filed an OPRA request for the groundwater monitoring data, leachate sampling data, the DEP approved landfill closure plan, surface water monitoring data, and recent inspection reports.
We will keep you posted. Below are photos documenting the above observations. See captions for details.
- Landfill gate – no access controls or hazard signs. Cap breached. Looks like no one has been there in years.
Crown Vantage landfill Superfund site, about 1 mile north of Riegal Paper Co. landfill, looking from the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River: