Residents: Former landfill not suitable as recreation location

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HOWELL – Two representatives of Howell’s environmental community have voiced their opposition to a former landfill being listed as a potential site for recreation.

During a recent Planning Board meeting when Howell’s master plan was being discussed, the inclusion of the former Waste Management Inc. (WMI) landfill on Lakewood-Allenwood Road in the plan’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space section was a topic of discussion.

Elizabeth Naskiewicz represented the Lake Restoration and Wildlife Management Committee and said the group is “unable to fathom” why a former landfill is being considered as a potential site for recreation. She suggested the property should be removed from the list of potential sites.

“We have stated repeatedly in written comments to the Master Plan Committee our objections to points in the earlier drafts of this update. We are absolutely not in favor of pursuing any recreational activities on the former WMI landfill site,” Naskiewicz said, adding there are contaminants in the former landfill.

“The liability factors concerning this site are very serious, as are the health issues associated with (the landfill’s) past. I was chair of the Howell Environmental Commission during the year when the controversy of reopening the landfill took place. It became apparent to me when speaking to the members of the Master Plan Committee that there was not much knowledge of the history of this contaminated site,” Naskiewicz said.

Mayor Theresa Berger asked Naskiewicz for copies of the information she was discussing.

Planning Board Chairman Paul Schneider thanked Naskiewicz for all of her efforts on behalf of the community over the years.

Resident Janet Coakley also expressed concern about a former landfill being listed as a proposed recreation location in the master plan. She said was involved in the closing of the facility as a citizen and after that she spent 14 years as the chair of the Howell Environmental Commission.

Coakley said she worked as a health and safety manager of a pharmaceutical company and said, “these are things I am familiar with.”

“The limits of that landfill are not well known. We have records there is medical waste buried there that was not supposed to be there. There was an incident in which a (company) driver hit several drums which exploded. The drums contained chemicals, they saturated the driver, it was a major incident.

“Of course, it was kept pretty quiet, but we are aware of it and the fact that I spoke to that driver, we also have documentation to show there was a tanker buried on the site … what that tanker contained we have no idea, but you do not bury a tanker for no reason,” she said.

Coakley said, “this is not a wise area” in which to consider placing a recreational facility.

The board’s planner, Malvika Apte, noted the concerns and said, “I know we have put (that property) in the open space language, but we have put it in with the caution that extensive research and consideration and due diligence should be done before any kind of proposal is made for the site. It is just one of the policy statements we have made in the document (and it) does not mean we we will go ahead.”

There was no vote taken regarding the master plan and additional discussion was anticipated.