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PETITIONED PRELIMINARY PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

GLOBAL LANDFILL
OLD BRIDGE, MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

SUMMARY

Located in the Old Bridge Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey, the Global Landfill National Priorities List (NPL) site is situated along a tidal marsh. The 57.5-acre NPL site has about 2,400,000 cubic yards of municipal solid, bulky, vegetative, and industrial wastes. Global Landfill generates significant amounts of leachate and landfill gas. On-site environmental monitoring of leachate, surface and ground water, and soil gas indicates there is significant contamination of the environment at the Global Landfill NPL site.

Based on available information, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) concludes that the Global Landfill NPL site is an indeterminate public health hazard because most of the on- and off-site data are not appropriate for determining possible health impacts for the site. Because airborne contaminants may be migrating into nearby residential areas, air monitoring is needed at the landfill and in residential areas to determine whether significant human exposure is occurring. The results of the community soil monitoring program indicate that the residential area immediately around the landfill were not built on a landfill. The results further indicate that there are no sources of organic vapors in the soil of this residential area.

As described in this public health assessment, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy (NJDEPE) is planning a number of remedial activities. When those corrective actions are complete, the potential for human exposure to Global Landfill NPL site-related contaminants should be reduced, provided operable unit 1 is appropriately designed and maintained.

Health outcome data evaluated for the Global Landfill area were pediatric health examinations, cancer incidence data, and information provided by the petitioner. The limitations of those data are described in this document. The only reported symptom reported in the pediatric exams, that appeared to be associated with proximity to the landfill was pounding headaches. This association was only for play areas, not for residence. The occurrence of cancer and the outcomes reported by the petitioner was not greater than that expected.

ATSDR recommends that systematic sampling be done of on- and off-site surface soil, ambient air, and aquatic biota. In cooperation with ATSDR, the Task Group on the Global Landfill and Sommers Brothers Property is considering site-specific educational programs for health professionals.

BACKGROUND

This public health assessment is the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) evaluation of the public health significance of the Global Landfill NPL site in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey. More specifically, ATSDR reviewed available environmental and health outcome data, and community health concerns to determine whether adverse health effects are possible. In addition, this public health assessment will recommend actions to identify, reduce, or prevent exposures to site-related contaminants or possible adverse health effects. ATSDR, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the agencies of the U.S. Public Health Service.

In November 1988, a law firm representing some area residents petitioned ATSDR to evaluate the public health implications of the Global Landfill site. (This was prior to the site being proposed for the NPL). A public health assessment is being conducted in part to address the concerns of the individuals represented by this law firm. In addition to responding to the petitioned request, ATSDR is required by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), as amended, to conduct a public health assessment for every site on the NPL.

A. Site Description and History

The Global Landfill NPL site is in Old Bridge Township, Middlesex County, New Jersey (lots 25 and 26, block 4185). The site is situated along a tidal marsh, approximately one-quarter of a mile southeast of the intersection of Ernston Road and Route 9 (see Appendix A, Figure I). The landfill consists of a 51-acre mounded fill area and a 6.5-acre extension (see Appendix A, Figure II). The mounded fill area rises approximately 100 feet above the surrounding terrain. The 6.5-acre extension, along the northwest slope of the main fill area, is considerably lower, rising only 10 to 15 feet above grade (1).

Global Landfill has an approximate volume of 2,400,000 cubic yards and is reported to contain municipal solid, bulky, vegetative, and industrial wastes (1). The landfill was operated by Global Reclaiming Corporation from 1968 through 1984. On April 17, 1984, a court order was issued requiring Global Reclaiming Corporation to stop accepting waste. The court order was issued because the northeast side of the landfill collapsed (see Appendix A, Figure II) and was not in compliance with approved engineering designs. In March 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed the Global Landfill on the NPL.

Unknown quantities of sewage sludge containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead were disposed of in the landfill (2). Drums containing hazardous wastes were found in the 6.5-acre tract during an exploratory excavation performed in March 1988. Drums were allegedly also disposed of in the mound area of the landfill (1).

Soil of unknown thickness covers the landfill. Vegetative cover over most of the site is sparse to non-existent. Because soil is eroding at the site, waste material is now exposed. Leachate seeps and ponded leachate occur frequently at the foot of the landfill and also up on the sides of the landfill. The Global Landfill generates approximately 65,000 gallons of leachate a day (1). Measured emissions from cracks and fissures in the landfill cover and offensive odors, both on and off site, indicate that the landfill is discharging gas. Field data suggest that the gases emitted from the landfill are primarily methane (1). Gas generation at Global Landfill has been estimated to be as high as three million cubic feet per day (1).

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy (NJDEPE) and New Jersey First, Inc. (court-appointed administrator for the Global Landfill closure fund) had a plan prepared to close the landfill. Based on this plan, NJDEPE is proposing for operable unit 1 that a modified hazardous waste cap be placed on the landfill, a berm be installed at the toe of the landfill slope, the methane gas and leachate be actively collected and treated, the site be fenced, and that storm-water management and soil erosion control measures be conducted. In addition to the efforts being conducted under operable unit 1, NJDEPE conducted a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) for the Global Landfill NPL site in 1991 (3).

The 57.5-acre site is bordered on the northwest, southwest, and southeast by tidal wetlands. To the west-northwest and north of the site are residential areas (apartment complexes and single-family units). The nearest dwelling is about 500 feet north of the site. The Cheesequake State Park is approximately 1,500 feet southeast of the Global Landfill (see Appendix A, Figure I).

Near the foot of the landfill's northwest slope is an active 42-inch diameter gas pipeline owned by Transcontinental Pipeline Company. To the immediate northwest of the site is a large sand borrow pit. Along the southwest border of the Global Landfill NPL site is the Sommers Brothers site. The Sommers Brothers site is currently under investigation by the NJDEPE. The Sommers Brothers site covers 234 acres, 20-30 acres of which were used as a municipal landfill for Old Bridge Township between 1900 and 1968. In 1986, more than 200 drums were discovered in eight or more locations throughout the Sommers Brothers site (2).

In response to public health concerns about the Global Landfill and Sommers Brothers Property, the New Jersey Legislature directed the New Jersey State Department of Health (NJDOH) to take the following actions. Those were: review existing information from both the sites, acquire the exposure data necessary to determine the appropriate action to address the public's health concerns, and establish an outreach and education program for residents living near the sites (4). As a result, the Task Group on Global Landfill and Sommers Brothers sites was formed in 1987. This organization will be identified as the Global Task Group in this document. The Global Task Group includes representatives from NJDOH, NJDEPE, and the community. Under the direction of the Global Task Group, a Community Soil Monitoring Program, Community Outreach and Education Activities, Community Demographic Profile, and Pediatric Health Examinations were conducted (5). The outreach will be described in the next paragraph, the soil monitoring in the Off-site Contamination section, the demographic profile in the Demographics and Land Use section, and the pediatric health examinations in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation section.

The purposes of the Community Outreach and Education Activities program were to stimulate community participation in the decision-making process related to site remediation and to allow community members to make informed decisions about protective/preventive actions they might take regarding environmental contaminants (5). As part of this effort, the members of the Global Task Group established close working-relationships. Specific outreach efforts, as decided by the Global Task Group, were to keep the community fully informed about the task group activities and actions, provide detailed health information during the Pediatric Health Examination and Community Demographic Profile programs, and educate children about the reasons not to access the site. This last was done in conjunction with the local school district and included training of district teachers and development of a specific unit which was presented as a part of the curriculum.

B. Site Visit

Mr. Sven E. Rodenbeck, ATSDR, conducted a site visit on May 7-9, 1990 (6). During the site visit, Mr. Rodenbeck met with representatives of NJDOH, NJDEPE, Old Bridge Township Health Department, Old Bridge Environmental Commission, Old Bridge Board of Education, Citizens Helping Environmental Clean-up (CHEC), and the petitioning law firm. Mr. Rodenbeck made the following observations during his tour of the Global Landfill:

1) The Global Landfill NPL site is bordered on the west-northwest and north by apartments and individual residences. These domiciles are physically elevated above the landfill because of local topography and are separated from the site by a four-foot fence. However, the fence is not continuous and only one warning sign is posted. The site is not fenced on the north, south or east sides.
2) Several well-used bicycle/motorbike trails lie along the perimeters of the landfill. Two teenage boys were seen on-site during the site visit.
3) There are many areas on the landfill in which garbage is exposed. The site is only partially vegetated. Several leachate seeps were also seen.
4) A strong odor emanated from the landfill. According to local citizens, the odors are worse during the summer especially at night.

On March 30-31, 1993, Dr. John Crellin of ATSDR made a site visit and participated in community meeting on Global Landfill (7). All the observations made during Mr. Rodenbeck's site visit of May 1990 are still applicable. In addition, it was observed that the two access gates had been down.

The major points of discussion at the public meeting in March 1993 were (7):

    1) The need for sampling of the ambient air - In response to questions from the public, NJDEPE stated that no air sampling would be done. Their justification was the results of the air dispersion modelling of the landfill gas sampling, which indicated that off-site levels would not be a health concern. ATSDR's concerns about the modelling were that the landfill gas was sampled only twice, no local meteorologic data were used, the height of the landfill apparently was not considered, and that no validation sampling was done. NJDEPE will respond in writing to those concerns.

    2) The additional time (4-5 years) it was going to take to remediate the site

    3) What NJDEPE was doing to do to reduce or prevent access to the site - NJDEPE' Bureau of Construction will repair the gates and fences and try to identify ways to prevent access. There is an ongoing program in the Old Bridge School District to educate students about the site and reasons why they should not access it.

    4) Concerns about health - Residents identified four cases of cancer which they believed were associated to the site. There was a discussion of the limits of the two epidemiologic studies related to this site and the need for off-site environmental data. One resident provided ATSDR and NJDOH with several pages of concerns.

C. Demographics, Land Use, and Natural Resource Use

The residential areas to the west, northwest, and north of the Global Landfill NPL site are in the Township of Old Bridge and the Borough of Sayreville. In 1985, the estimated population of Old Bridge Township was 54,669. The 1985 population of the Borough of Sayreville was 30,843. To the north and northwest of the NPL site are the following residential developments: Sky Top Apartments, Oak Tree Village, Limier Condominiums, and Harbor Club Condominiums. The above developments are within the Borough of Sayreville and contain 1,525 units. Located in the Township of Old Bridge are Parkwood Village, Nieuw Amsterdam, London Terrace, Central Park, and Anchor Parks developments. These developments contain approximately 2,420 units. The total area of these developments is approximately 1.1 square miles. The estimated population of this area is 11,835 (2).

As part of a multi-facetted effort to address community concerns, the Global Task Group had a Community Demographic Profile conducted (5). The purpose of this profile was to obtain information on demographic characteristics and health complaints of the population near Global Landfill through administration of a questionnaire. The questionnaire solicited information on demographic characteristics, smoking history, locations for children's bicycle riding and playing, and self-assessed symptoms.

Three hundred ninety-four (10%) of the 4000 households determined by the Global Task Group to be in the Global Landfill area were selected through a stratified random sample to be administered the questionnaire (5). The sample was stratified so that larger housing complexes would have more eligible households than smaller complexes.

The questionnaire was actually administered to 194 of the 394 (49.2%) households selected (5). The non-responding households included 59 (15%) refusals, 16 (4.1%) vacant, 107 (27.2%) not at home, and 19 (4.8%) nonresidential. The over 50% rate of non-responses very likely makes the results of the questionnaire not representative of the community. They will, therefore, not be considered further in this public health assessment.

All of the surrounding residential areas receive potable water (drinking and cleaning) from municipal-water distribution systems. The nearest municipal wells to the landfill are approximately one-mile north. Those wells serve the Township of Sayreville. Some of the wells are screened within the Old Bridge aquifer and extend to a maximum depth of 137 feet, pumping at an average rate of 400-500 gallons per minute (gpm). The other Sayreville wells are screened within the deeper Farrington aquifer, and extend to a maximum of 295 feet, pumping at an average rate of 1,200 gpm. Supply wells belonging to the Old Bridge Municipal Utilities Authority are approximately two-miles east of the site. Those wells are screened within both the Old Bridge Sand and Farrington aquifers.

The wetlands areas surrounding the Global Landfill NPL site are a salt-water environment and are in the drainage basin of Cheesequake Creek. Cheesequake Creek lies 900-feet southeast of the site. It drains northeast into Raritan Bay, entering the bay about 1.7 miles from the site. Cheesequake State Park is southeast of the NPL site, on the southeast bank of Cheesequake Creek (see Appendix A, Figure I). The Cheesequake drainage basin is used for recreational activities (e.g., boating and fishing).

A 350-foot-deep well is approximately one-mile southeast of the Global Landfill NPL site, in Cheesequake State Park (3). That well is screened within both the Old Bridge and Farrington aquifers. The well is used to replenish Hooks Creek Lake. When the well is used, it is pumped at a maximum rate of 150 gpm. Hooks Creek Lake is used for recreational purposes.

D. Health Outcome Data

The NJDOH maintains cancer and birth defect registries, and mortality and morbidity databases. Based on the community health concerns, ATSDR requested NJDOH to provide data on the number of cases and incident rates of cancer and birth defects in the Global Landfill area. In addition, ATSDR requested that the Global Task Group provide the results of the Pediatric Health Examinations. The cancer data and the results of the pediatric health examinations have been received (5), and the results will be reviewed in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation portion of the Public Health Implications section.

In 1990, NJDOH and ATSDR determined that it was not feasible to evaluate birth defects data.(1) Previous NJDOH evaluations indicate that there is severe under-reporting of birth defects in the State of New Jersey. To correct this problem, data on birth defects for at least a ten-year period, would have had to be obtained from area hospitals. This sort of effort is beyond the scope of a public health assessment and would require a health study to be done. If evidence became available indicating that exposure to site-related contaminants was occurring or had occurred, ATSDR would consider an evaluation of the birth defects data.

The law firm, which petitioned ATSDR to evaluate the Global Landfill site, submitted health outcome information from the 374 individuals they represent. A summary of the pertinent health information of the 374 persons is in Tables 3-5, Appendix B. These data will also be evaluated in the Health Outcome Data Evaluation section.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CONCERNS

Community health concerns were solicited from a community activist group, Citizen's Helping Environmental Cleanup (CHEC), Old Bridge Health Department officials, members of the Old Bridge Environmental Commission, NJDOH, and the petitioner (6). Most of the members of CHEC live in the affected area.

A variety of health effects and other problems related to the site were reported. Health effects mentioned included upper respiratory problems (e.g., asthma), cancer of varying types, and skin problems (e.g., rashes). For more information, see the Health Outcome Data and Community Health Concerns Evaluation portions of the Public Health Implications section.

  
 
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