WASHINGTON – The second of two agreements to resolve longstanding problems with landfill gas emissions and their negative impacts on air quality at the Middlesex County and Edgeboro landfills in New Jersey has been reached to bring them into compliance with the Clean Air Act, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
The two settlements together resolve all outstanding compliance issues at the landfill facilities. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection was also a party to the agreement.
Under the agreements, both facilities will enhance environmental controls at the site, conduct regular monitoring and make other required infrastructure improvements to meet federal standards. Landfill gas collected by the separate Middlesex County Utilities Authority (MCUA) and Edgeboro Disposal Inc. (EDI) gas collection systems is treated and then used to generate electricity.
As part of the settlement, MCUA has installed 19 additional landfill gas collection wells in its newest landfill cell, to improve its collection of landfill gasses. MCUA also agreed to an innovative plan to monitor the surface of the Middlesex landfill for excess methane emissions. Under the terms of the agreement, the defendants must collectively pay a civil penalty of more than $1.3 million.
The active Middlesex County landfill, owned and operated by MCUA, is located directly adjacent to and on top of the Edgeboro landfill, an older, closed landfill. The facility is located in East Brunswick Township, N.J. This “piggyback” landfill design, in which MCUA landfill space is constructed on top of the capped Edgeboro landfill, contributed to challenging environmental compliance issues. Today’s agreement was reached with the MCUA, and with NERC Middlesex Gas Co. LLC and Middlesex Generating Co. LLC, the operators of the Middlesex County landfill at the time the violations occurred.
“The United States filed these actions to ensure that landfill operators, including the defendants in these cases, follow the requirements of the Clean Air Act by capturing and controlling their emissions of harmful air pollutants,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “In resolving these actions, the United States secures relief that will improve air quality and harness landfill gasses to generate energy.”
“This agreement represents years of hard work to turn an environmental problem into an environmental asset,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Landfill gas is the by-product of the decomposing solid waste and mainly composed of carbon dioxide and methane. Instead of being allowed to escape into the atmosphere, landfill gas can be captured, converted, and used as an energy source. Converting landfill gases to energy offsets the need for coal and oil, and provides communities greater environmental protection by reducing the impacts on air quality.”
The first of the two agreements was reached on July 13, 2010, with EDI, Edgeboro Inc., NEO Edgeboro LLC and O’Brien Biogas IV LLC, the owner and operators of the Edgeboro landfill. As part of this settlement, EDI completed construction of a new $6 million landfill gas collection and control system to capture and redirect harmful air pollution from the landfill for potential reuse as an energy supply. The defendants also paid $750,000 in penalties to resolve the Clean Air Act violations.
The landfill owners and operators had failed to comply with federal law that applies to large scale landfills that have been expanded or modified since 1991. The Edgeboro landfill did not have an adequate landfill gas collection and control system in place, which allowed excessive amounts of landfill gases to escape into the surrounding area. The facility’s air pollution control devices were also not operated properly, and various types of monitoring were not conducted.
The nonmethane organic compounds (NMOC) in landfill gas contain volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants that can result in adverse effects to the respiratory system, damage to the nervous system and cancer. Landfill gas also contain carbon dioxide and methane gas which contributes to climate change. Methane gas can also cause fires or explosions when it accumulates in structures on or off the landfill site.
After EPA determined that the Edgeboro facility’s old gas collection system was inadequate to continue to comply with federal law, it worked with the defendants to design a new, horizontal gas collection system, which is now installed and operational. EPA anticipates extensive environmental improvements at the landfill, resulting in the capture and control of about 129 tons/yr of NMOC, a contributor to smog, and 20,000 tons/yr of methane and 58,000 tons/yr of carbon dioxide, pollutants that contribute to climate change.