Primary Source Report-MT

Name: Matthew Trochim

Project Site: PJP Landfill, Jersey City, NJ

Source 1: SMOLDERING LANDFILL JERSEY CITY LIABILITY

Location: https://www.nytimes.com/1982/11/28/nyregion/smoldering-landfill-jersey-city-liability.html

Author: Leo H. Carney

Date of Publication: Nov 28, 1982

This source is a news article from 1982, 12 years after the landfill originally opened, and it expresses discontent from the locals about how the cleanup efforts are taking so long. Important to remember that during this period there were frequent underground fires, making a dramatic example of the problems that were underground at the site. This is useful to my project because it shows how residents of the city reacted and it also shows how many different organizations were involved with this site. 

Source 2: Gallery: PJP Landfill Throughout the Years

Location: https://www.nj.com/jjournal-news/2012/09/almost_three_decades_later_a_o.html

Author: Terrence T. McDonald

Date of Publication: Sep 24, 2012

This source is a news article from 2019 about the history of the landfill, but I’m more interested in the images that are featured with the article. Some of the images show fresh growth and abundant plant life in the area of the former landfill and other images show fields with fires burning all around and plumes of smoke rising in the air. Other images show members of the community confronting politicians about the landfill. These images are useful because they demonstrate both the transformation of the site and some of the methods the community used to advocate for themselves. 

Source 3: Welcome to Jersey City Politics. (cover story)

Location: https://search-ebscohost-com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=32590226&site=ehost-live.

Author: Doug Daniels

Date of Publication: May, 2008

This source is a magazine article written about the politics of Jersey City. It includes interviews and quotes from major figures in Jersey City politics. This source is useful for my project because it gives me a different perspective on the politics of Jersey City than I have been able to find in my secondary sources. This gives a view from the ground level of how people living in Jersey City viewed their own political system.

Source 4: Are Fires At Dump Extinct?

Location: https://search-proquest-com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/docview/111250155?pq-origsite=primo&accountid=13626

Author: Alfonso A. Narvaez

Date of Publication: Dec 8, 1985

This source is a newspaper article from 1985, around the time that the underground fires were finally extinguished, about the different agencies involved in the effort to put out the fires. This source is useful for my project because it gives an example of how the different agencies involved in toxic sites aren’t always capable of working seamlessly together and how animosity can grow between members of different organizations. 

Source 5: Various Collections of Jersey City Census Data

Locations:

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/jerseycitycitynewjersey/PST045219

Date: July 1, 2019

NEW JERSEY POPULATION TRENDS 1790 TO 2000

Date: August, 2001

POPULATION BY RACE AND HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN NEW JERSEY, COUNTIES AND SELECTED MUNICIPALITIES: 1980, 1990 AND 2000

Date: June, 2001

MONEY INCOME (1989 and 1999) and POVERTY (1999) NEW JERSEY, COUNTIES and MUNICIPALITIES

Date: April, 2003

I decided to present these sources together because they are all collections of different types of census data. The dates presented range from the 70s to 2019. Taken together these sources are helpful for my project because they concretely show how the community has changed over time and can be used as evidence to show gentrification in Jersey City. 

Primary Source Analysis

Source: SMOLDERING LANDFILL JERSEY CITY LIABILITY

Location: https://www.nytimes.com/1982/11/28/nyregion/smoldering-landfill-jersey-city-liability.html

This source is a newspaper article from the New York Times that was published in 1982 and was written by Leo H. Carney. It includes interviews with prominent figures from many of the organizations that have or had influence over the site at the time of writing. Carney attempts to get the perspective of all the people that had a hand in creating, perpetuating, or remediating the site and through this seeks to explain why the landfill has yet to be cleaned. Looking at all these different quotes from people explaining why themselves or others didn’t take more action to protect the community seems to indicate a lack of commitment to actually making a change. Ultimately, I think this source helps demonstrate both the confused nature of the site during the late 70s and early 80s and how that confusion delayed a proper response from the authorities.

Looking first at all of the different players that had influence over the site we can see  how this increased the complexity of the location. Throughout the article we see such organizations as the Jersey City Fire Department, the NJDEP, the EPA, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, the mayor’s office of Jersey City, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and a reference to local residents. Along with these organizations we see several prominent individuals including Edwin Seigel who owned part of the land on which the landfill was built, Frederick Rubel who represented the EPA’s Emergency Response and Hazardous Materials Inspection Branch in Edison, and Earl Aldridge who was the toxic waste official for Jersey City. What should have been a simple explanation of where the site stood in 1982 and how it got there branched off and touched a multitude of competing interests for the future of the site.

All of these competing voices and interests made forming a plan forward difficult for the site. According to Carney, “Agencies representing the three governmental levels have not been able to agree on who should address the air-pollution and other problems associated with the fire”. While the EPA maintained in 1979 that the underground fires did not present a large enough risk to start an emergency cleanup, Lt. McCarthy of the Jersey City Fire Department claimed there were, “many instances of midnight dumping” at the site, including hazardous waste. In addition, George Klenk representing the NJDEP said, “the Department of Environmental Protection had not taken further action because the E.P.A. was now the ‘lead’ agency in the case”. What all of this shows is that there was contradictory information at the time about how severe the problems were and disagreement about how to move forward. These factors combined to create an atmosphere of confusion.

This confusion, in turn, led to a delayed response by the various authorities who were supposed to be handling the situation. So delayed in fact that, “state and local environmental authorities have acknowledged that, for 10 years now, they have not fully assessed the public-health dangers of a smoldering, continually erupting fire in an abandoned landfill here, nor determined the extent of the underground pollution that has fueled the fire.” All of this despite complaints from both residents of Jersey City and New Jersey’s Department of Transportation. During this time period there turned out to be very little action on the part of governmental officials either to slow the pollution of the site or remediate the situation with Carney stating, “What emerged last week from nearly a dozen interviews was that, since 1977, no enforcement action has been taken against the owners or operators of the dump by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection or the Federal Environmental Protection Agency”. What we can draw from this is that, in all likelihood, this variety of organizations involved had a hindering effect on the speed with which the actual problems of the landfill were addressed. 

Keywords:

Pollution, Soil, Parks, Business, Community