Burning Trash to Bike Lanes: How the PJP Landfill in Jersey City, NJ was transformed from 1970 to 2021
My name is Matthew Trochim, I’m from Stewartsville, NJ, and I’m a history major at NJIT in my final year. I found myself initially drawn to this location because it is currently designated as the future location of a public park built on what used to be a contaminated landfill. As someone who regularly goes on walks and hikes the state of our parks is something of personal importance to me.
The PJP landfill is located in Jersey City, NJ near the Pulaski Skyway, a bridge spanning over the Passaic and Hackensack rivers. The PJP Landfill Company operated at this location from 1970-1974 where they accepted hazardous chemical and industrial waste including volatile and semi-volatile compounds, petroleum hydrocarbons, and metals. From the site’s beginning in 1970 to 1985 there were a series of underground fires caused by material buried at the site. In 1983 the EPA declared the location a superfund site and in 1995 they reached a decision on what remedial action should be taken about the contaminants. In 2008 a company now known as Prologis purchased a section of the site for commercial use as a warehouse and distribution center and in 2010 Jersey City purchased the remainder and planned to redevelop the location into a public park.
Looking a little deeper I want to keep moving forward with this project because I see a lot of different influences converging at this location and I want to untangle who or what was responsible for the different ways in which this location was treated over time. Why was the site not classified as an environmental danger sooner? Why did the effort in cleaning up the landfill increase when it did? What lasting effects did the fires and contamination have on the local population? Why were the fires allowed to burn for so long? What role did Prologis have in the cleanup efforts?
Part of the reason I think this site is significant is because I see a lot of parallels between this location and a previous project of mine, the Pohatcong Valley Superfund Site. Both locations seem to have been neglected by authorities for much of the late 20th century, only to be radically transformed in the 21st century. In the case of the Pohatcong Valley I came to the conclusion that public awareness was the reason authorities stopped ignoring the site. In the case of the PJP Landfill, I’m researching to see if I can show a connection between the involvement of the community, outside companies, or government officials and an increase in the speed or effectiveness of the cleanup effort. If I can demonstrate a specific arrangement of factors that led to a more effective cleanup we can better understand the situations in which environmental injustice is perpetuated and those in which it is resolved.
Pollution, Soil, Parks, Business, Community