A red-tailed hawk injured by a flame at the Kingsland Landfill. The flame is caused by the burning off of methane created by decomposing garbage. Credit: Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
Invisible ‘Bird Killer’ Lurks in Revitalized New Jersey Meadowlands
By RICK ROJAS
APRIL 26, 2017
The New York Times
NORTH ARLINGTON, N.J. — From some vantages along the rolling meadow, the gleaming Manhattan skyline can be seen clearly in the distance, rising above the tall grass, beyond the water, roadways and fixtures of industry that dot the New Jersey horizon. But on a bright and tranquil Sunday morning, all of that feels almost a world away.
Don Torino has spent much of his life around here, and he has watched as this stretch of the New Jersey Meadowlands has been transformed from a wasteland that sometimes forced residents to pinch their noses into something of a natural treasure. He pointed out the different species of birds — a northern harrier and an American kestrel, among them — that called out and swooped through the air as evidence of that evolution.
“Unfortunately,” Mr. Torino said, “you have a bird killer in the middle of it.”
He walked over to a pipe that emerged from one of the hills like an IV from a forearm, coiling around to a stack that released a flame that was virtually invisible, except for a glassy haze. It burns continuously, sometimes reaching close to 20 feet high and temperatures of almost 1,000 degrees.
It is one of the signs that the mounds here were formed not by nature, but rather by the mountains of garbage that built up when the area was an open landfill. Kingsland Landfill, as it is still known, has been closed for almost three decades, and in the years since, it has been covered, leaving behind the golden brown foothills that have become a draw for birds looking for a meal.