What was once a landfill that accepted everything from human waste to construction debris is now capped, cleaned and generating green power. It is also what earned Brick Township the Re-Use Award from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Mayor John Ducey said hard work from township employees, engineers and planners, plus the efforts of EPA officials, led to the capping of the landfill – a federal Superfund site – and its ultimate transformation into a solar farm.
“Not long ago, this property was the longest open wound in our community,” Ducey said. “The land we are standing on now was contaminated, it was spreading, and there was a plume that was spreading throughout the rest of our town.”
Though little of the solar farm can be seen from Sally Ike Road, beside which the former landfill sits, 24,000 panels stretch for acres behind and on top of the large hill that represents the cap. Glistening in the sun, the vast sea of panels produce 7,400 megawatt hours of energy each year.
“Brick Township has succeeded in turning the environmental liability of a former Superfund site into a community asset,” said EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Catherine McCabe, who presented the award Thursday during a ceremony at the site. “Renewable energy is a key component of our work to combat climate change, and it’s great to see that a landfill that once only generated contamination now can provide Brick Township with clean energy.”
The 42 acre site began operating in the 1940s. It was purchased by Brick Township in 1973 and shut down in 1979. The solar farm project has, at times, been controversial and the source of disputes between Brick Standard, LLC, its developer, and township officials. The township, under an agreement with Brick Standard, has the right to buy discounted power for 15 years, after which it will take full ownership of the solar array. The township also received upfront payments from Brick Standard.
The project has drawn praise from environmental organization, including the Sierra Club, which congratulated Brick on the award.
“We hope other municipalities will use this as an example for recycling their own brownfields and most importantly, promoting renewable energy like solar,” said Sierra Club New Jersey Director Jeff Tittel.