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Homeowners in Absecon, NJ, sue Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) over strong odors from landfill on Delilah Road

ABSECON, New Jersey (WPVI) — A lawsuit filed by homeowners in a neighborhood in Absecon, New Jersey, alleges that the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) is violating federal and state environmental laws in operating a landfill on Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Township.

At this time, homeowners are seeking an order to halt operations at the landfill while the process plays out.

“If I had known what I was dealing with, I wouldn’t have moved here,” said Bel Air Lakes resident Jodi McPherson.

One man said he vomits several times a week after a morning walk with his dog or after brushing his teeth.

Another man said he had suffered a mild stroke.

One woman wondered if a cancer diagnosis was related.

Another woman said she thought a brain tumor had returned, but her doctor said her painful headache turned out to be due to inhaling toxic fumes.

“Since they operate at night, I would say around 10 o’clock it would be a full 15 on a scale of 1 to 10,” said Ricky King Luke.

Ricky King-Luke and his neighbors live in Bel Air Lakes, a 55-and-older community about two miles from the landfill. They believe the gases emitted into the air by the landfill are also seeping into their homes.

Many residents are retired, but can no longer enjoy their retirement or even socialize as they would like.

“I’m talking about a smell that smells like feces, very, very strong, strong smells that wake you from a dead sleep, that make your eyes water, that make you throw up, that make you nauseous, that take away your appetite, that deprives you essentially deprives you of the ability to enjoy your community and your home,” says environmental attorney Pete Fontaine of Cozen and O’Connor Law Firm.

Fontaine represents the homeowners in their lawsuit against the ACUA.

“We believe the landfill should be permanently closed and covered,” Fontaine said.

Homeowners claim the problem has worsened over time and complaints to state and local agencies have gone unaddressed. Fontaine says tests have been conducted showing levels of hydrogen sulfide and other gases are above legal limits.

“The people exposed to these levels suffer health consequences, and those consequences can be permanent. They have been left to fend for themselves and that is not right and that is what we are trying to correct. This is really a matter of very, very terrible consequences for the quality of life of these poor people and that is why we are trying to get justice, Fontaine said.

The ACUA released this statement to Action News on Friday:

“The Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) strongly disagrees with the misleading statements and characterizations of events set forth in the complaint filed against it on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

The ACUA has operated a comprehensive, effective and responsible solid waste management system serving the Atlantic County community for more than 30 years. This includes the Egg Harbor Township landfill, which is highly regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Atlantic County Department of Health. In accordance with this comprehensive regulatory framework, the landfill is routinely inspected by the NJDEP.

The ACUA’s operations are fully transparent and the legal team representing Bel Aire Lakes has been granted full access to all data and information requested through multiple requests filed under the Open Public Records Act since January 2023.

The ACUA and its counsel intend to vigorously defend against these allegations in court using facts and evidence, and not false and sensational allegations.

The ACUA remains committed to providing the highest quality waste management services to our community.”

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