Birds continue to be burned
A red-tailed hawk was found badly injured last week from a Meadowlands landfill flare, a year after state officials said they would seek to replace the invisible flame that has burned many birds.
Now those promises may become a reality.
A new enclosed flare that had been sitting idle at the Keegan Landfill in Kearny may soon be operational after a long holdup over permits, officials said Sunday.
The new flare can’t come soon enough, with the fall migration season peaking in a few weeks along the Atlantic Flyway, birders said Sunday.
“This is great news, but it should not have taken this long,” said Don Torino, president of Bergen County Audubon. “We should not have had to wait for more of our birds to be burned.”
Landfill flares have long burned raptors and other birds in the Meadowlands due to the incineration of combustible gases from decomposing garbage.
The problem became so bad that the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which runs the landfills, built a seven-story cage in 2017 around a flare at the Kingsland Landfill in North Arlington and Lyndhurst.
But no barrier was placed around an open gas flare that was installed at the Keegan Landfill in recent years to reduce noxious fumes that were inundating a nearby neighborhood.
When two hawks were burned in October at Keegan, sports authority officials said the flare would be replaced by one that does not have an open flame.
Story continues below the gallery
In the meantime, the agency placed temporary barriers around the flare and cut down vegetation to dissuade birds from flying nearby. It also built a new enclosed flare but needed permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
DEP representatives could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The DEP gave permission to the sports authority on Friday to use the enclosed flare, just days after the injured hawk caused an uproar among birders, Brian Aberback, an authority spokesman, said Sunday. He said the agency “will move as expeditiously as possible” to get the new system running.
The hawk, whose wings were singed last week and whose foot was badly burned, is the first known bird to be burned by the flame since temporary obstructions were put in place to dissuade birds from landing near the flare. But Torino suspects there have been many more.
“This is just the first one that’s been found,” he said.
The hawk was found injured by sports authority staff. It had barely managed to fly to a nearby tree, Torino said.
Christopher Takacs, a longtime Meadowlands birder, was able to capture the bird with the help of Eric Swanson, a falconer, and Drew McQuade, a wildlife biologist for the sports authority
The hawk was taken to the Raptor Trust, a rehabilitation center in Morris County. Although its singed wings look dramatic, the bird’s most serious injury are burns on its feet, Torino said.
“It’s very blistered,” he said. “If that foot doesn’t heal, that’s the end of the bird.”
Scott Fallon covers the environment for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about how New Jersey’s environment affects your health and well-being, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
Read More: Birds continue to be burned