Home > Uncategorized > DEP calls toxic landfill leachate “natural”

DEP calls toxic landfill leachate “natural”

Leacahe seep kills all vegetation (at southwestern corner of landfill, between D&R Canal and Delaware River).

Landfill leachate seep kills all vegetation (at southwestern corner of landfill, between D&R Canal Path and Delaware River).

[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?

end.]

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.
Landfill gate – no access controls or hazard signs. Cap breached. Looks like no one has been there in years.
Rusting monitoring well. Lock was rusted and loooked like no one had opened it in years. Located on eastern perimeter, not along Delaware River side.

Rusting monitoring well. Lock was rusted and looked like no one had opened it in years. Located on eastern perimeter, not along Delaware River side.

leachate seep kills all nearby vegetation. Old sediment control fence totally useless.

leachate seep kills all nearby vegetation. Old sediment control fence totally useless.

Toxic leachate seep has killed vegetation. There wer dozens of similar sites, covering thousands of square feet.

Toxic leachate seep has killed vegetation. There were dozens of similar sites, covering thousands of square feet.

Leachate runoff kills vegetation and discharges directly to Delaware River in background.

Leachate runoff kills vegetation and discharges directly to Delaware River in background.

Old mileage marker rusts (forground) - DEP leachate "rust" kills nearby vegetation along southern edge of landfill, just 75 feet from Delaware River.

Old railroad mileage marker rusts (foreground) - DEP leachate "rust" kills nearby vegetation along southern edge of landfill, just 75 feet from Delaware River and in floodplain.

Oily rusty leachate seeps into stream just north of landfill approximately 200 feet east of Delaware River.

Oily rusty leachate seeps into stream just north of landfill approximately 200 feet east of Delaware River.

Leachate seeps through stream bank into Delaware tributary just north of landfill.

Leachate seeps through stream bank into Delaware tributary just north of landfill.

rusty stream bank from landfill leachate seeps is not "natural".

rusty stream bank from landfill leachate seeps is not "natural".

oily sheen on water in stream from leachate seep. This is not "natural".

oily sheen on water in stream from leachate seep. This is not "natural".

what's that item (center of picture, 30 feet in background)?

what's that item (center of picture, 30 feet in background)?

Â

Let's get a closer look - looks like a barrel - surely nothing "natural".

Let's get a closer look - looks like a barrel - surely nothing "natural".

Yup, its "Lubriplate" Surely no hike in NJ is compelte without coming across a barrel of toxic waste - it's only "natural"!

Yup, its "Lubriplate" Surely no ramble in NJ is complete without coming across a barrel of toxic waste - it's only "natural"!

drums at south western toe of slope, along D&R Canal path by pedestrian bridge

drums at south western toe of slope, along D&R Canal path by pedestrian bridge

Maybe that's what killed all the natural vegetation in this leachate seep just north of the landfill.

Maybe that's what killed all the natural vegetation in this leachate seep just north of the landfill.

Leacahte runs under D&R Canal.

Leachate runs under D&R Canal Path into Delaware River.

leachater runs under D&R Canal and kills natural vegetation on its way to the Delaware.

leachate runs under D&R Canal Path and kills natural vegetation on its way to the Delaware.

Delaware River, adjacent to landfill. Delaware is important water supply for downriver communities.

Delaware River, adjacent to landfill. Delaware is important water supply for downriver communities.

Crown Vantage landfill Superfund site, about 1 mile north of Riegal Paper Co. landfill, looking from the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River:

Crown Vantage Superfund site on Delaware River

Crown Vantage Superfund site on Delaware River

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