PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT
JACKSON TOWNSHIP LANDFILL
JACKSON TOWNSHIP, OCEAN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY
The Jackson Township Landfill is a former municipal waste landfill located in Ocean County, New Jersey. Site-related contamination currently poses an indeterminate public health hazard since insufficient data exist for some environmental media to which humans may be exposed. However, there is no evidence that humans are currently being exposed to contaminants at levels expected to cause adverse health effects. Environmental data indicate that the former landfill continues to impact underlying ground water quality. Surface water, sediments, and air have been minimally impacted by former landfill activities. Insufficient data exist to determine whether site trespassers are being exposed to contaminated surface soil or whether nearby residences are being impacted by methane gas migration.
The landfill also poses a public health hazard because site information indicates that past human exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking water has occurred at levels that may result in adverse health effects. The landfill accepted sewage sludge and septic waste from 1972 through 1980. Chemical and industrial wastes were illegally disposed of at the site. In 1978, VOCs were detected in about 100 residential wells near the site. As a result, local residents were provided with an alternate source of potable water.
Residents raised several questions about possible exposure to site-related contaminants through ingestion of garden produce and municipal water supplies. Detailed answers to these questions are found in the Public Health Implications section.
The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) has made recommendations to (1) reduce and prevent exposure to contaminants; (2) better characterize the extent of surface soil contamination on the site; and (3) consider health follow-up and other activities if data become available that suggest human exposure is currently occurring.
The data and information developed in the public health assessment
for the Jackson Township Landfill, Jackson Township, New Jersey has
been evaluated by ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel
(HARP) for appropriate follow-up with respect to health activities.
This site is not being considered for follow-up activities at this
time. Specifically, the HARP determined that the previous
community health investigation performed by NJDOH and individual
evaluations being performed by private physicians are appropriate
actions to follow up the past exposure to contaminated drinking
The Jackson Township Landfill occupies 20 acres of a 135-acre parcel of land located on Homestead Road, in the Legler section of Jackson Township, Ocean County, New Jersey. The site is bordered by Dorathy's Lane and Ollie Burke Road to the north and west, and Lakehurst Avenue and Toms River Road to the south. A sand and gravel pit borders the site to the east (See Appendix A; Figures 1 and 2). In 1972, Jackson Township obtained the property from Glidden Corporation for use as a municipal waste landfill. From 1961 to 1972, Glidden Corporation operated a surface strip mine for ilmenite, an ore of titanium, at the site. Waste materials, such as sand and gravel, and mine tailings resulting from the on-site ore extraction process were disposed of in the excavation pits.
The landfill was operated by the Township from 1972 until its closure in 1980. Liquid and solid sewage sludge and septic tank wastes were accepted at the landfill. Household wastes, construction debris, and chemical and industrial wastes (i.e., solvents from degreasing septic tanks and from decaffeination of coffee) were illegally disposed of at the site. Waste disposal occurred in the unlined trenches of the former mining pits located within the south and southwest portion of the site (See Appendix A; Figure 2).
Septic tank wastes, including chemical wastes, were illegally disposed of at a residential property to the southwest of the site in 1979. This activity was not associated with landfill operations but rather was allegedly engaged in by the property owner.
A chain link fence surrounds most of the site including two locked entrance gates located along Homestead Road. The site contains several mounded areas with elevations as high as 130 to 135 feet above mean sea level, and valleys with elevations as low as 105 to 110 feet above mean sea level. As a result of former mining activities, surface elevations are generally lower at the site than at residential and commercial properties immediately adjacent to the site.
The Long Brook and Ridgeway Branches, two tributaries of Toms River, are located to the north and south of the site, respectively. The Obhanan-Ridgeway Branch, a tributary of the Ridgeway Branch, is located to the south of the site (See Appendix A; Figure 1).
The site is situated in a relatively undeveloped, semi-rural area within the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens is known for its pine-dominated vegetation and sandy soil. Various oaks are predominantly found in the vicinity of the site with increasing swamp vegetation in the direction of the Ridgeway Branch. Throughout the site, natural sands and clay have been replaced with backfill material, consisting of sand, mine tailings, and waste, as a result of former mining and landfill operations.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy (NJDEPE) cited the Township for accepting excessive quantities of septic sludges in August 22, 1972, when residents of the Legler section of Jackson Township began reporting landfill-related odors to local health officials. In early 1974, NJDEPE cited the Township for improper storage of septic sludges.
In late 1977, Legler residents began reporting stomach cramps and nausea from drinking well water to local health officials. Between October and December 1978, about 100 private potable wells in the Legler section were found to contain volatile organic compounds. NJDEPE documented the contamination of five on-site monitoring wells and 26 off-site potable wells with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including benzene, chloroform, methylene chloride and 1,1,1-trichloroethylene. As a result, NJDEPE ordered the Township to stop disposing liquid wastes in the landfill. In late 1978, the Township instructed residents not to drink well water and began supplying bottled water to residents.
The Concerned Citizens Committee, composed of Legler residents, filed a class action suit against the Township on August 31, 1979 for negligence in the operation of the landfill. The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) conducted a health survey of these residents in 1980. In February 1980, NJDEPE issued an Administrative Consent Order to the Township to close the landfill and required the Township to complete a design for landfill closure, determine the extent of contamination, and develop remediation plans. In 1980, the Township provided residents with a public water supply.
During 1981 and 1982, VOCs were not detected in monitoring wells and potable wells samples collected by the Township and NJDEPE. The landfill was included on the National Priorities List (NPL) issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in December 1982. The September 1983 Remedial Action Master Plan (Hart Associates) prepared for USEPA recommended further site investigation.
In November 1983, the New Jersey Superior Court awarded Legler residents about $15.8 million in damages. The Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court annulled over $10.4 million of the settlement awarded for emotional distress and medical surveillance in June 1985. In May 1987, the New Jersey Supreme Court reinstated the amount of the 1983 settlement awarded for medical surveillance.
On August 22, 1988, the Township and NJDEPE entered into a Judicial Consent Order agreement requiring the Township to conduct a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS); and to submit and implement the final landfill closure plan based on the findings of the RI/FS. The objectives of the RI/FS were to (1) determine whether the ground-water contamination is still present; (2) determine whether air, soil, or surface water/sediment of local streams have been contaminated; and (3) to develop and evaluate remedial activities, if necessary.
The Remedial Investigation was completed in late 1990. Landfill closure/remediation plans are currently being developed. A human health risk assessment is currently underway to evaluate the risks associated with current and future exposure to site contaminants. Appendix B describes a detailed chronology of events for the site.
On March 12, 1992, Laurie A. Pyrch of the New Jersey Department of Health performed a site visit of the Jackson Township Landfill and was accompanied by the Site Manager from NJDEPE, and a Field Representative from the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD).
The site consists of a large, open sandy area covered with sparse vegetation, including grasses, shrubs and pine trees. The site contains numerous mounded areas consisting of mostly gradual changes in elevation; however, there are also several deeper depressions present. A chain link fence surrounds most of the site. A small post and wire fence surrounds a small portion of the site along the western boundary and no fence was present at the western corner of the site boundary. One residential/commercial property, including a family business and home, is located adjacent to the unsecured southwestern section of the site. During the site visit, evidence of site access was observed, including gun shells. In addition, OCHD Officials have observed all-terrain vehicles tracks on the site during their periodic site inspections. OCHD Officials reported that the southern entrance gate had recently been damaged during an automobile collision. During the site visit, both entrance gates were locked and in good condition.
The West End Buck Club, consisting of one small structure, is situated downgradient on a wooded dirt road on the south side of Toms River Road. The OCHD Official reported that the building is used seasonally for deer hunting. The source of water for the building is unknown. During the site visit, two monitoring wells in the area of the hunting club were found to be damaged.
According to the 1990 United States Census, about 433,200 people live in Ocean County. The population is 53% female and 47% male. About 95% of the population are white, 3% are black, and 2% belong to other races. About 3% of the population are of hispanic origin.
Jackson Township occupies about 100 square miles of Ocean County. Census information of 1990 reveals that about 33,200 live in the Township; about 19,400 of these live inside urban areas of the Township and about 13,800 live within rural areas of the Township. There are about 11,800 housing units located in the Township. According to the 1980 census information, 34% of the population are under 18 years old, 57% are between 18 to 64 years, and 9% are 65 years old and over.
The area surrounding the site is used primarily for residential purposes. Residential dwellings are located adjacent to the site along Homestead Road, Dorathy's Lane, Ollie Burke Road, and Lakehurst Avenue. Additional residences are situated near the site along Toms River Road. Most of the nearby homes were built during the 1940's and 1950's; however, steady growth in the area has resulted in many newer residences in the vicinity of the site. The closest residence, including a family business, is located immediately adjacent to the southwestern boundary of the site. Two schools are located along the south side of Toms River Road. Collier's Mills Wildlife Management Area and the Naval Air Engineering Center is situated to the southwest of the site (See Appendix A; Figures 1 and 2).
Natural Resource Use
The site is located on the Cohansey Sand Formation, a water table aquifer which provides an important source of water to the Coastal Plain region of New Jersey. Ground water within the shallow Cohansey aquifer flows to the south and southeast. The water-bearing Kirkwood Formation underlies the Cohansey Formation. The upper Kirkwood aquifer is hydraulically connected to the Cohansey aquifer.
Most of the nearby residences built prior to 1979 received their potable water from shallow wells screened within the Cohansey aquifer. Numerous residences are located downgradient of the site along the north and south sides of Lakehurst Avenue, and along the north side of Toms River Road. A 1988-1989 well survey was performed to identify the location of any downgradient potable wells. The survey found that most of the residents living near the site are currently receiving water from the Jackson Township Municipal Utility Authority (JTMUA) water system. The 1700 foot deep JTMUA well serving Legler residents draws water from a confined aquifer and is located about one-half mile to the southeast of the site. The closest residence to the landfill with a potable well, situated about 1,000 feet downgradient of the site, was found to be severely damaged and uninhabited. There were three other residences with potable wells located from 2,000 to 3,000 feet downgradient of the site. These residences have since been connected to the JTMUA system. According to JTMUA, shallow Cohansey wells were sealed. Since 1979, homes either have been built with deep potable wells or were connected to the municipal water system.
The shallow Cohansey aquifer discharges into the Ridgeway Branch. The Ridgeway Branch is located about 3,000 feet downgradient of the site. The Toms River and the Ridgeway Branch are used locally for recreational purposes.
There are multiple sources of health outcome data in New Jersey. State and local data for health outcome information include the New Jersey State Cancer Registry, Birth Defects Registry, Vital Statistics Records, Renal Dialysis Network, and Hospital Discharge Reports. Federal databases such as those maintained by the agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (i.e., National Cancer Institute, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and ATSDR) are not site-specific, but may be used for comparison or evaluation purposes.
NJDOH and the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) collected
health outcome data for Legler residents of Jackson Township in
1980. This information is discussed in the Health Outcome Data
In order to determine community health concerns, NJDOH spoke with the Chief Inspector from the Ocean County Health Department (OCHD). During the site visit, NJDOH discussed community health concerns with an OCHD Field Representative and the Jackson Township Director of Public Works.
In 1972, residents began complaining of odors associated with the site. In 1977, residents began reporting that they were experiencing health effects, such as stomach cramps and nausea, whenever they drank tap water. In the past, the primary community health concern involved the contamination of private potable wells and surface water near the site.
According to our conversations with local officials, community health concerns have been minimal since the landfill was closed and public water was supplied to area residents. During a NJDEPE public meeting held in Jackson Township on September 5, 1989, the community expressed health concerns about the potential for exposure to contaminants through the ingestion of garden produce and to contaminated ground water within the municipal water supply. These concerns are addressed in the Public Health Implications section.