Recently, the New Jersey Legislature voted unanimously to close the Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury for emitting thirteen times the legally allowed amount of hydrogen sulfide. These emissions pose enough of a threat to families living in the area that municipal officials have been forced to adopt an emergency plan to prepare for toxic events at this site.
Unfortunately, the noxious gases and strong odors, mostly caused by the emission of hydrogen sulfide from construction debris is not unique to the Fenimore Landfill and the action my colleagues and I took in this matter will likely have to be replicated for sites across the state.
As the contents of more New Jersey landfills reach toxic levels, we must ask ourselves, what is the next logical step for getting rid of the massive amounts of waste we produce? It seems illogical for the state to allow for the development of more landfills after they have proven hazardous and the financial strain of shipping garbage to external locations is a cost too great to ask taxpayers to bear.
Thankfully we have a third option. By being proactive and looking to new technology, we will be able to protect the health of New Jerseyans and reduce the cost burden of waste disposal.
Hydrothermal decomposition takes our solid waste and sewer sludge and turns it in to energy. High-pressure steam combined with high temperature converts waste into clean material in the form of pellets, which can be used to generate energy. Through hydrothermal decomposition, small factory plants meet the energy and waste disposal needs of large cities, while preserving the environment by improving air quality. The process essentially vaporizes the waste so that the released gasses are not toxic or harmful. Additionally, to operate this process, fossil fuels are not needed.
Furthermore, legislation I have introduced would classify this technology as a class one rank of renewable energy creating incentives for businesses to invest in this technology, which can further stimulate local economies in New Jersey.
Those who oppose investing in sustainable waste management claim that there are other solutions and that this is “not the best of the best”. But I ask, how much longer will New Jerseyans have to suffer? As long as landfills continue to exist within our state, we will have to deal with the risks of hazardous hydrogen emissions, groundwater contamination, and rotten egg-like odors. These are all less-than-ideal for neighboring communities.
Further, as many municipalities are facing increasingly tight budgets, hydrothermal decomposition can eliminate the cost of shipping garbage over long distances, which in and of itself is harmful to the environment. Shipping waste to other landfills does not solve the problem; rather it moves future problems to other areas. Fees related to the ridding of waste will continue to rise, and hydrothermal decomposition will help regulate fees over a long period of time, again saving municipalities disposal fees. The major cost of shipping garbage would be eradicated.
Hydrothermal decomposition is a win-win for New Jersey. To have an opportunity to eliminate waste while providing clean energy for our residents at an affordable rate is an innovative, logical solution to our ever-growing landfill problem. Let’s make the change now for a smarter, cleaner New Jersey, before it is too late.
Upendra J. Chivukula
Upendra Chivukula is a New Jersey Assemblyman in district 17 serving Franklin, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Piscataway, & Milltown, and Deputy Speaker of the General Assembly. For more information on Assemblyman Chivukula visit the website, “Like” on Facebook, and “Follow” on Twitter.