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The Sayreville Landfill site, located in Middlesex County, New Jersey, was used primarily for the disposal of municipal wastes from 1970 through 1977. Illegal dumping of possibly hazardous materials allegedly occurred during active landfill operations and after landfill closure. Organic and inorganic compounds were found in on-site subsurface soil, ground water, surface water, and sediments at levels above public health assessment comparison values. Access to the site is generally unrestricted. The nearest residential area is located about one-quarter mile to the west across the South River. Several small industries are situated immediately adjacent to the site boundary. The community is concerned about the safety of eating fish from the South River. The potential exists for past, present, and future exposure of local residents and workers to contaminated subsurface soil, nearby surface water, and sediments. The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) has concluded that this site is an indeterminate public health hazard since insufficient data exist for all environmental media to which humans may be exposed. However, available site information does not indicate that humans are being exposed or have been exposed to contaminants at levels expected to cause adverse health effects. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the NJDOH have made several recommendations to reduce and prevent exposure to contaminants and to better characterize the site.

The data and information developed in the Public Health Assessment for the Sayreville Landfill, Sayreville, New Jersey, have been evaluated by ATSDR's Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) for appropriate follow up with respect to health actions. Although exposure may have occurred in the past, the panel determined that no follow up health actions are indicated at this time because the exposure, if it occurred, was at low levels, of unknown duration, and the persons potentially exposed are not known. No site-specific public health actions are planned by ATSDR and NJDOH at this time.


A. Site Description And History

The Sayreville Landfill site is located in Sayreville Borough, Middlesex County, New Jersey (See Appendix A; Figure 1). The 35-acre site is situated about 1 mile south of New Jersey Route 535 and 1.5 miles north of Bordentown-Amboy Turnpike (See Appendix A; Figure 2). Jernees Mill Road borders the site to the east, and the South River bounds the site to the west (See Appendix A; Figure 3).

The site was leased by Quigley Corporation, a subsidiary of Pfizer Chemical Company, to the Borough of Sayreville from 1970 through 1977 for the disposal of municipal wastes and limited light industrial wastes. Landfill records indicate that hazardous waste was also accepted at the site. Most of the hazardous waste was allegedly disposed illegally between August 1974 and June 1977. Illegal dumping of additional quantities of possibly hazardous materials allegedly occurred after landfill closure in 1977.

Most of the buried wastes cover about 20 acres of Pfizer property located at the center of the site. The wastefill area rises about 8 to 10 feet above natural grade in a flat, open area. It is estimated that the wastefill area contains about 140,000 tons of waste and is up to 20 feet thick. The wastefill area extends onto land owned by Hercules Powder Corporation, and Melvin and Phyllis Safrin. A small operating construction business (owned by J. Martins, R. Martins and M. Martins) is also located on the southern portion of the wastefill (See Appendix A; Figure 4).

The Sayreville Landfill, also called Landfill III, is one of a series of former disposal operations along the tidal South River. Landfill II, developed between 1963 and 1967, borders Sayreville Landfill directly to the northwest. Edgeboro Landfill, an active landfill, is situated along the South River downstream of the site. Several other inactive landfills (Edison, Kin-Buc, and ILR Landfills) are located on the Raritan River downstream of the site.

The site lies within the South River Drainage Basin and is covered with low-lying vegetation and marsh grasses. Three significant tributaries of South River located near the site include: Pond Creek along the northern boundary of the wastefill area; Duck Creek along the southern boundary of the wastefill area; and Wilbur Creek to the south of the site. South River flows to the north and joins with the Raritan River.

Leachate and odor problems were reported during the late 1970's and the early 1980's. As the part of the 1980 landfill closure procedure, the Borough of Sayreville placed about 2 feet of soil on the top and sides of the wastefill area to reduce infiltration of rainwater and erosion. In addition, a foot of clay was placed on the side slopes of the landfill. A system of discharge pipes and ditches was installed to channel stormwater runoff to the South River. The inadequate maintenance of the landfill cover resulted in a 1981 New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) order requiring the Borough to properly maintain the landfill.

In April 1981, volatile organic compounds were detected in on-site liquid and solid samples collected by the Division of Criminal Justice of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety (NJDLPS). In July 1981, NJDEP surface water and sediment sampling near the landfill revealed the presence of organic compounds.

During 1982, the NJDEP and the NJDLPS excavated and sampled about 30 drums from the western portion of the wastefill. These drums were found to contain volatile organic compounds, including pentachlorophenol and para-ethyl toluene, pesticides, acids, and lab packs. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) performed a field inspection and estimated that over 500 drums of hazardous waste were present on the site. Following the USEPA investigation, the site was placed on the Federal Superfund National Priorities List on September 1, 1983.

A Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) was conducted in conformance with an October 1986 Administrative Consent Order and Agreement issued by the NJDEP. During the Remedial Investigation (RI), samples were collected in February 1987 (Phase I) and October 1989 (Phase II).

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) issued a Preliminary Health Assessment for the site on October 11, 1988 (See Appendix C).

A USEPA Record of Decision (ROD) was signed on September 28, 1990. The selected remedy for the site includes the removal of buried drums and the installation of an impermeable landfill cap. The remediation of ground water, surface water, and sediments will be addressed in a subsequent ROD.

B. Site Visit

On October 31, 1991, Laurie A. Pyrch of the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) performed a site visit of the Sayreville Landfill and was accompanied by an Environmental Specialist from the Middlesex County Health Department (MCHD).

During the site visit, numerous businesses were observed immediately to the north, east and south of the site along Jernees Mill Road. Site access appeared to be limited by heavy tree growth and swamps which surround most of the site perimeter. The main access road along Jernees Mill Road has been blocked with a 5-foot high soil berm. Evidence of illegal dumping of household garbage was observed along the perimeter of the site near the former access road. A "No Trespassing" sign was posted about 50 feet from the roadside along Jernees Mill Road.

The wastefill is heavily vegetated with a variety of weeds, mosses, and tall grasses. Heavy stands of cattails are located within marshy areas along the wastefill boundary. Evidence of soil erosion was observed throughout the wastefill area, including along the embankment at the northwestern border of the wastefill, resulting in large areas of exposed refuse. Three sixteen-inch plastic discharge pipes were observed at several locations along the embankment extending from the wastefill towards the South River and Pond Creek.

A construction business is located directly along the southern border of the wastefill. The property line is fenced; however, construction materials including concrete, sand and dirt piles, were being stored beyond the fence enclosure near or possibly on the wastefill area.

A second "No Trespassing" sign was posted near the center of the wastefill area. Human footprints were observed in the western portion of the wastefill. Deer tracks and excrement, and shotgun shells were observed throughout the site.

Household garbage, including paint cans and beer cartons, and deer remains were found along an industrial access road immediately to the north of the site. Vehicle tire tracks were observed on the road indicating site access, possibly by local hunters. Nearby Pond Creek exhibited a green color; this characteristic was absent further upstream of the site.

The closest residential neighborhood is located about one-quarter mile from the landfill along the western side of the South River. A small wooden boat slip was observed on the South River directly opposite the landfill area. Numerous residential and commercial areas, including a new condominium complex and single family homes, are situated about one-half mile downstream along the eastern and western edge of the South River.

C. Demographics, Land Use, And Natural Resource Use


According to the 1990 census, about 672,000 people live in Middlesex County. The County Planning Board estimates that the population will increase to about 757,000 by the year 2000.

Sayreville Borough covers about 17.1 square miles. Census information reveals that about 30,000 people lived in the Borough in 1980. The population of Sayreville was expected to reach about 35,000 in 1990 and is expected to reach about 42,000 by the year 2000.

Land Use

The site is located in a moderately industrial area of Sayreville Borough. Small industries border the site to the north, east and south along Jernees Mill Road. The area within a 3-mile radius of the site is used for commercial and residential purposes.

Natural Resource Use

Four water-bearing units underlie the site. The wastefill layer yields relatively high levels of ground water due to its permeability. Ground water in the wastefill material flows to the northwest toward Pond Creek and South River. A shallow, semi-confined to unconfined aquifer is located within the sand and gravel deposits beneath the wastefill. The shallow aquifer flows locally to the west toward the South River. While the shallow aquifer is designated by the State as suitable for use as a drinking water source, it is not presently being used as a drinking water supply.

The Woodbridge/South Amboy clay layer contains an water-bearing sandy unit or intermediate aquifer. The intermediate aquifer is located at about 25 to 30 feet below mean sea level. The clay layer appears to act as a confining unit between the shallow aquifer and the deep Farrington Sand aquifer. The deep Farrington aquifer, the most important water-bearing unit underlying the site, is located at a depth of 90 to 105 feet below mean sea level. The deep aquifer is designated for use as a drinking water supply for the surrounding community. Groundwater flow in the deep aquifer is to the south.

The Old Bridge Sand geologic formation is located in the vicinity of the site. The Old Bridge Sand aquifer is considered to be a major water supply aquifer in the region. According to the RI report, an outcropping of the Old Bridge Sand lies about one mile south of the landfill in the direction of localized shallow groundwater flow. However, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy (NJDEPE) site geologist has determined, based on the RI/FS, that it is unlikely that the shallow aquifer is recharging the Old Bridge aquifer in the outcrop area.

Local residents receive their drinking water supply from the Sayreville Borough and South River Borough municipal well systems. The South River wellfield is located within 1 mile to the south of the site. Three wells ranging in depths of about 210 to 230 feet draw water from the deep Farrington aquifer. The Sayreville wellfield contains 12 wells ranging from 69 to 98 feet deep. These wells, located about 1 mile to the southeast of the site, are screened within the Old Bridge aquifer.

The South River is utilized by the surrounding community for non-contact recreational purposes, including fishing and crabbing. The South River is not used for drinking water purposes downstream of the site.

Hunting of game animals, including deer and pheasant, is permitted in the vicinity of the site.

D. Health Outcome Data

Multiple sources of health outcome data are available in New Jersey by county, and may also be available by township. 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.


In order to gather information on community health concerns, NJDOH spoke with Middlesex County Health Department staff, and representatives from the Boroughs of Sayreville and South River. During the site visit, site records were reviewed for health-related information. In addition, NJDOH attended a public meeting with local community members to document community health concerns.

According to conversations with local officials, community health concerns have been minimal possibly due to the limited number of residents living near the site. However, the local community has expressed concerns about the safety of eating fish from the South River. This concern is addressed in the Public Health Implications section.

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) conducted a public comment period for the Public Health Assessment for the Sayreville Landfill site from July 6, 1993 to August 6, 1993. The Public Health Assessment Addendum document was placed in local repositories to facilitate commentary and reaction by the public at large. Additionally, the Public Health Assessment was circulated to the Middlesex County Health Department for the purpose of soliciting commentary by local health officials.

A summary of commentary received by the NJDOH and associated responses is contained in Appendix D.

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