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Closed private landfill in Keyport causing issues in Raritan Bay

Typing Letter to the Editor for the Opinion page.

By Jeff Tittel

A lawsuit filed by the borough of Keyport claims that trash and contaminants from an improperly capped waterfront landfill are polluting Raritan Bay.

The private landfill was shut down in 1979. According to the lawsuit, which targets the owner of the land, Bay Ridge Realty, the contaminants include harmful heavy metals and chemicals, and carcinogens like benzene and PCBs.

It is shameful the state has allowed this contamination in Keyport to continue for so long. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was responsible for making sure this site was properly capped and cleared up, but it has been polluting the Raritan Bay for decades.

This proves what we have said all along, that caps do not work, especially in tidal areas. This site has been leaking harmful chemicals and heavy metals into the water. This is a major public health concern for people who live in this area or use the Raritan Bay for fishing or boating.

Bay Ridge Realty has been avoiding the responsibility of cleaning up the site for long enough. The state needs to make sure they do a full cleanup of the site because, as we can see, caps don’t work.

The landfill began operation before 1963 until it was shut down in 1979. It was located within the 50-acre industrial park at 55 Walnut St. in Keyport. According to the lawsuit, the site was never properly closed and capped as required by New Jersey’s Solid Waste Management Act.

The DEP needs to make sure this site is completely cleaned up. This site is right on the waterfront of a tidal bay and is very flood-prone. Capping in flood-prone areas is dangerous because flooding undermines the cap and leaches toxins into the water. Also, springs and sediments can leach out of the seal and into the surrounding waters.

The state needs to hold Bay Ridge Realty responsible for cleaning up the contamination at this site to protect public health and the environment. They need to completely remove the contaminants like PCBs, benzene and heavy metals because these are harmful to the communities living nearby.

The dump, which is listed as Waste Disposal Inc./Aeromarine, accepted municipal, household, commercial and institutional waste when it was operating. It also accepted bulky waste like appliances, furniture, vehicles, trailers, large vehicle parts, tires, vegetable and yard waste, and nonhazardous waste from oil spill cleanups, and pesticides and residue from scrap metal shredding facilities.

We need to hold Bay Ridge Realty responsible for cleaning up this toxic nightmare that is impacting Raritan Bay and nearby communities. Polluters must pay and be held accountable to do a proper cleanup not just pave and wave.

Often there is still too much pollution left in the ground water impacting the water supply and the environment at these sites. We cannot allow these toxins to stay in the ground because they will get out, impacting drinking water, the Raritan Bay, and even worse, vapors from the contamination will end up in homes affecting people’s health.

There needs to be an investigation into why the DEP did not enforce this cleanup. We cannot allow polluters to get away with illegally dumping on our state for years without doing anything to stop them.

Jeff Tittel is the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

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