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A Solar Farm for the Meadowlands?

Millions of tons of waste have been dumped into the New Jersey Meadowlands since the 1950s. PCBs, metals, pesticides and other pollutants have long leached into the Hackensack River. A failed development of the landfills have left the Meadowlands more contaminated. Here, workers at the Rutherford West Landfill pump leachate, in this case, water that has percolated through contaminated landfill.
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At a public ceremony on May 18, 2004, EnCap Golf Holdings broke ground on a $1-billion redevelopment project in New Jersey's Meadowlands District. The ambitious project goals were to transform 750 acres of polluted landfills in Rutherford and Lyndhurst, N.J. into golf courses, upscale homes, luxurious hotels and a pedestrian-friendly village of shopping. The project was billed as one of the largest brownfield redevelopment projects in the U.S.

On April 27, 2009, EnCap Golf Holdings sent a letter to the Meadowlands Commission to officially acknowledge those ambitions were dead. The company also gave up $3.4 million in escrow the commission had been using for landfill maintenance.

Today, those Meadowlands landfills are still being cleaned up. Work is about halfway done on the $150 million cleanup. The Kingsland Landfill may be "stabilized" by winter's end.

The hills and sand traps built for the EnCap Golf Village may be graded for a possible solar farm, but warehouse and light manufacturing are more likely. There will be no housing on any of the five large landfills and two smaller ones.

The New Jersey media reports environmental officials and consultants found EnCap not only failed to clean up the landfills, but left the site more contaminated and unstable. A remediation firm, American Home Assurance, has been brought in.

Contaminated water continues to seep into the marshes, the Hackensack River and nearby creeks. Eight hundred feet of broken underground piping installed by EnCap contractors at Rutherford West to transport contaminated water have been replaced.

A 1,000 feet of subterranean corrugated plastic walls installed to "seal" contaminated water from seeping into a creek didn't work and must be replaced. The "fill" used by EnCap contractors to partially cover the landfills reportedly included PCB-contaminated construction debris, recycled asphalt, asbestos-bearing rock and sewage sludge. In other words, the contaminated land was being covered by contaminated materials.

Phragmites, an invasive reed planted by EnCap that chokes wetlands, must also be dealt with.

Reports of earthmovers recently spreading a mixture of river mud dredged from New York Harbor, concrete and soil over a 120-ft. stack of trash gives one a general idea of the enormity of the tasks ahead. The harbor mud contains toxins too, but is cleaned to a residential standard under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers. For years, pumps have extracted some 6,000 gallons of contaminated water per day from the Rutherford West Landfill. A pipeline system to siphon leachate from the landfills and pump it to a sewage treatment facility is planned.

A final redevelopment plan outlining permitted uses is expected to be released before the end of the year, followed by public hearings, approvals by the mayors of the 14 towns in the Meadowlands district, then a vote by the Meadowlands Commission sometime next year.

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June 26, 2019, 12:02 pm PDT

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