New Jersey Field Office
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Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site

The Combe Fill South Landfill is comprised of three separate fill areas (65 acres) across a 115 acre property in Chester and Washington Townships, Morris County, New Jersey. The Site operated as a municipal landfill from the 1940s until 1981, accepting over 5 million cubic yards of municipal, commercial, and industrial waste. An onsite leachate collection system operated from 1973 to 1976, but historical records indicate that the system failed to function properly (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1986). The landfill was improperly covered at its closing in 1981. As a result, severe erosion of the landfill surface exacerbated runoff and infiltration of leachate into the surface waters and underlying aquifers bordering the site.

After the landfill was closed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the NJDEP detected contaminants in shallow and deep ground water monitoring wells around the Site; in leachate seeping from the landfills; and in the nearby surface waters of Trout Brook and an unnamed tributary (UT). A wide range of contaminants were detected, the majority of which were volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Contaminants of concern included: benzene; chlorobenzene; ethylbenzene; toluene; chloroform; methylene chloride; trichloroethylene; tetrachloroethylene; 1,1-dichloroethane; chloroethane; 1,4-dichlorobenzene; 1,2-dichlorobenzene; 1,2-dichloroethane; trans-1,2-dichloroethylene; and nickel.   

The Combe Fill South Landfill was added to the Superfund National Priorities List in 1983. The NJDEP completed a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) in 1986, which delineated areas of contamination and evaluated remedial alternatives. The EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in 1986. The ROD required: clay capping of the landfill; venting of landfill gas; onsite treatment of shallow groundwater and leachate; installation of erosion control structures; construction of a municipal water supply line for affected residents; and a supplemental RI/FS evaluation of the need for deep aquifer remediation. The landfill cap, venting, erosion control structures, and groundwater remediation system were completed in 1996; and operation and maintenance work is ongoing. The EPA completed construction of the municipal water line extension to affected areas in 2015.

Combe Fill South Landfill Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR)

When natural resources are injured by releases of hazardous substances or oil, federal laws such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) enable Natural Resource Trustees to obtain compensation for injury and loss of trust resources, and enables Trustees to restore or replace injured natural resources through a process called Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR).

The NRDAR process is separate from the EPA clean-up activities. Under NRDAR, a Trustee Council will evaluate how the natural resources were harmed over the time in the areas has been contaminated, and will develop a restoration program to compensate for those losses.

In 2006, the Combe Fill South Natural Resource Trustee Council was formed to develop and coordinate natural resource damage assessment and restoration activities associated with the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site, using the NRDAR process. The Trustee Council is currently composed of two entities:

- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, acting on behalf of the State of New Jersey

- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, acting on behalf of the U.S. Department of Interior

The Combe Fill South Landfill is located in the NJ Highlands Region, an area known to support an exceptionally diverse array of natural resources including unique biotic communities and critical habitats (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2002). The Site is situated just north of the headwaters of Trout Brook, a NJ Category 1 (C1) Trout Production stream, and tributary to the Lamington River. Trout Brook flows through the Hacklebarney State Park, providing numerous recreational and fishing opportunities. A small forested wetland is located just east of the Site, which drains to the headwaters of an UT. The UT is a small tributary to the Lamington River, and is categorized as a C1 Trout Maintenance stream.  

Following the Natural Resrouces Damage Assessment process, the Trustees determined that the release of hazardous substances has resulted in a 230-acre plume of contaminated groundwater beneath and around the Site. Site leachate additionally impaired or degraded 11.7 acres of forested wetland habitat; injured the surface water, benthic macroinvertebrates, and fish of approximately 1.9 river miles of Trout Brook (C1 Trout Production stream); and injured the surface water and biota of an UT (C1 Trout Maintenance stream).

A settlement, including compensation for Natural Resource Damages, was formalized in a Consent Decree signed by the United States Government, the State of NJ, and the Responsible Parties in 2009. The Trustees received $1,028,000 to compensate non-groundwater natural resource injuries. The restoration account has been held by the State of NJ, for the purposes of restoration, including restoration planning, past assessment costs, future restoration monitoring, and other allowable expenditures associated with the Site.

The Trustees released a draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site in March of 2016. The draft RP/EA describes the Trustees’ proposal to restore similar habitat for fish and other aquatic trust resources injured as a result of the release of hazardous substances at the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site, through the removal of the Hughesville Dam located on the Musconetcong River.

Combe Fill South Landfill Documents

A. Restoration Plan

Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site (2016)

Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site (2016)

Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment Addendum for the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site (2017)

Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment Addendum for the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site (2017)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Contacts

If you have any questions or comments related to the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site NRDAR, please contact us by email or telephone:

Cathy Marion, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey Field Office, cathy_marion@fws.gov, 609-382-5265

Robin Heubel, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5 NRDAR Coordinator, robin_heubel@fws.gov, 413-253-8630

Useful Links

EPA Superfund Program: Combe Fill South Landfill, Chester Township, NJ

NJDEP Site Remediation Program: Combe Fill South Landfill

USFWS Region 5 NRDAR Homepage

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Last updated: January 26, 2018
New Jersey Field Office
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