Solid Waste

Since its establishment in 1969, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, now the NJSEA, has worked to ensure the proper control, closure and remediation of landfills throughout the Meadowlands District. In 1969, there were nearly 1,900 acres of unregulated landfills in the region. Today, there is one active, 110-acre landfill in the District, the Keegan Landfill in Kearny. In addition, environmental controls are in place to collect leachate, the liquid contaminant byproduct of landfill decomposition, and pump it to a regional sewage facility.

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History Landfill Closure and Post Closure
The open dumps in the Meadowlands District in the early 1970s predated state environmental regulations and the establishment of the NJMC, and all involved the filling of wetlands. In general, these operations entailed the excavation of the marsh soils and the backfilling of the wetlands with solid waste, with no thought toward environmental impact. Many of these open dumps were eventually “orphaned,” or abandoned, by their operators, who walked away from the sites without making environmental improvements or setting aside funds for closure.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, created on the first Earth Day in 1970, developed and implemented solid waste regulations. The former open dumps in the Meadowlands became heavily regulated and required site preparation, operational controls, capping, leachate collection and landfill gas recovery. In addition, the landfill operator was required to maintain all aspects of the landfill closure improvements for a minimum of 30 years following closure of a site.

There are two main by-products from the decomposition of solid waste in a landfill. When rainwater filters through the decomposing garbage at landfill sites, it produces leachate, a tea-colored liquid that can seep into the surrounding wetlands and eventually into local streams and rivers. Leachate contains a mix of contaminants, depending on the waste that is encountered when water flows downward. Another by-product of solid waste decomposition is landfill gas, a roughly 50/50 mix of methane and carbon dioxide. If left uncontrolled, these gases can build up and cause fires or explosions. Prior to the controls now in place, drivers on the northern portion of the New Jersey Turnpike were often greeted by smoke and odors from underground landfill fires.

Over the years, the NJSEA has remediated these former open dumps through the construction of perimeter cutoff walls that extend to a naturally occurring clay layer beneath the landfills. This clay layer meets or exceeds liner standards established by the state for vertical permeability, or the ability of water to pass through the soil. The cutoff wall design that was employed utilizes a vertical trench that extends into the underlying clay layer. Once stabilized, the trench is replaced by a cutoff wall that effectively isolates the landfills hydraulically from the surrounding wetlands, creating a “bathtub” for the leachate.

Once this perimeter vertical barrier is in place, a leachate collection system is constructed to gather the leachate within the landfill and maintain an established level. The Commission has designed these systems so that the interior leachate level remains below the level of the wetlands surrounding the landfills. In the event that there is any migration of liquids through the cutoff wall, the liquid would tend to travel into the landfill, and not out to the wetlands. This state-of-the-art “inflow landfill” design has been used successfully throughout the country. The collected leachate is then pumped to a regional sewage treatment facility.

Landfill gas is collected from two sites in the District through a network of vertical wells that extend into the waste, and a web of collection pipes. These ultimately go to two central collection points.

The NJSEA has also installed impermeable caps on top of portions of the landfills in order to decrease leachate production. The Authority has utilized several different liner designs as a cap. Once in place, these liners are covered with topsoil, seeded and vegetated. In addition, the NJSEA has used stabilized dredge material from New York harbor to provide a cap for portions of several landfills. The dredge material is mixed with cement and forms a suitable impermeable cap for the landfill.
Leachate Collection
Beginning in 1998, leachate pump stations that serve several closed and active landfills. The stations have pumped billions of gallons of leachate to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission's regional sewage treatment facility in Newark.

Leachate from these sites will continue to be pumped for the 30-year post-closure period as required by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The collection and processing of leachate from these landfills is a major objective to protect the delicate balance of nature.

Leachate is a liquid product of the decomposition of landfills. If not properly collected in the Meadowlands, this contaminated liquid would eventually seep into surrounding wetlands, streams and rivers.

In order to accommodate the amount of leachate collected from its landfills, the agency entered into a cooperative agreement with the Kearny Municipal Utilities Authority (KMUA) in 2006 to build two pumping stations. The NJSEA provided the funds to build the pumping stations and designed the stations to also accommodate sewage from proposed developments in the area. This has created an economic improvement to the Kearny Meadowlands area through increased sewage capacity, which has enabled major development.
Methane Recovery
Landfill gas is produced by the decomposition of garbage buried in landfills. The gas consists of an approximate mix of 50 percent methane, the major component of natural gas, with the balance coming from carbon dioxide and traces of other unstable components.

Landfill gas can pose a threat to surrounding properties and the environment if not controlled. Fires - and even explosions- can occur when these compounds build up underground and enter a confined space. The gas, when untapped and unmanaged, can also release emissions into the atmosphere. As part of the NJSEA's efforts to control these emissions, landfill gas recovery has been successfully implemented in the Meadowlands District on more than 550 acres of landfills. Under the methane recovery process, landfill gas is extracted under a vacuum from wells located at the various landfills and piped to processing plants.
Keegan Landfill
New Customers
Customers must be registered with the NJDEP (609-292-6305) before an account can be opened. To open a new account please, contact our Escrow Operations Department at 201- 460-8161. Hauler accounts are set up as Pre-Pay accounts with a “cutoff amount” minimum, which is based on truck size and county origin of waste. As each load is disposed of at the Keegan Landfill, the monies for that load will be deducted from your pre-paid Account. Your driver will be notified by the scalehouse when you are reaching your “cutoff” so you can replenish your account. For more information about the Keegan Landfill please see information below.

Types of Waste
The agency, now the NJSEA, began remediation work at Keegan in January 2008, and the landfill began accepting waste in January 2009 following a 37-year period of inactivity. Once remediation is complete, the site will be permanently added to the Meadowlands District’s passive and active open space inventory. Please note, the Keegan Landfill is only permitted to accept ID 13, 13C, 23 and 27 type waste. Here is a list of solid and liquid waste types as defined by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

Solid Waste Vehicle Registration
Registration states that "no person shall engage in or continue to engage in the transportation of solid waste in this State without first obtaining an approved registration statement from the NJDEP." Read more about vehicle registration

Recycling
Many materials are mandated recyclables by both the State and individual counties. Here are the mandates on recyclables for each county, which cannot be accepted at the Keegan Landfill.
Hudson
Bergen
Essex
Union
Passaic