Experts quell contamination concerns at park

Staff Writer

North Brunswick will take measures to ensure that contaminated soil from Veterans Park does not affect the surrounding area during the park’s remediation.

Officials held an informational meeting on June 4 to discuss the planned work at the park, which is adjacent to North Brunswick Township High School, off Roosevelt Avenue.

The site requires remediation because of industrial waste that was dumped at the high school and park sites decades ago. A refuse trucking business operated on a property adjacent to the high school and park site through the 1960s.

“Some of the transported waste is suspected of being deposited at the site of present day Veterans Park and the high school,” township Business Administrator Robert Lombard said.

The goal is to have all of the contaminated soil — which has arsenic, lead and some base neutrals — removed from the park during the summer, according to Lombard.

“We are not removing all contamination. We are removing the top 1 to 2 feet,” Lombard said.

Mike Heumiller of T&M Associates, the firm retained by the township to design and supervise the soil remediation and construction at the park, said a geotech liner will be put down and workers will monitor dust control at all times.

Phil Pirro of Applied Landscape Technologies, the contractor undertaking the soil remediation and park improvements, said the site would be capped with 2 feet of certified clean fill. An unpenetrable orange layer will be placed down. Since the existing soil contains metals and not gases, “a 2- foot gap is more than safe,” he said, but a water truck will remain on-site in case of dust. Pirro said the entire area would be fenced off, with only one access point permitting trucks to drive over a track prepared with stone. Each truck will require an automatic wash prior to leaving the site.

“There’s no dust after you put the 2 feet of fill down. … There’s no gases, no benzynes in this soil [that would be airborne]. There’s nothing that’s going to come up through this soil,” he said.

Remediation should be completed by the end of August, according to landscape architect Evan Stone of T&M Associates, with the soil being shipped to three locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Besides the soil contamination, Lombard said groundwater has been tested between Judd Elementary School, Fillmore Drive, Halsey Road and Raider Road by the high school, and for the past 10 years some static contamination about 150 feet in diameter has existed closer to Roosevelt Avenue. “Although it’s not a good thing — we still have a groundwater problem — it’s a good thing to know … it’s concentrated to one spot and is not in the park at all,” he said.

He said two houses are directly affected, but that there are monitors in the homes, which officials check approximately every 6 months.

“There are no active wells near where the contamination is,” he said.

Improvements are also in the works for Veterans Park, as officials have awarded a contract to Applied Landscape Technologies for a bid of $8,989,283.

Phase I includes a drop-off area that will circle the existing veterans monument; the rebuilding of the tennis courts and construction of two new basketball courts; and the inclusion of one softball field.

Phase II will include a new restroom and concession building, improvements to the playground equipment and landscaping, which was not included in the bid price for the original project and will cost an additional $800,000.

The township also would like to make Roosevelt Avenue a public road and widen it with a bikeway and sidewalks, Lombard said.

Thus far, companies suspected of sending waste to the dump site have contributed $6.4 million toward the remediation project, Lombard said.

The entire project should be completed by next spring.

Although two baseball/softball fields had been mentioned in a prior project, with one being considered an alternative, both Lombard and Parks and Recreation Director Lou Ann Benson said that only one field is feasible due to funding. Lombard said the difference between a multipurpose field for lacrosse, soccer and field hockey and upgrading to a softball field is $180,000 because of fencing and the clay mix needed for the infield.

“The cost of this project is much more than we expected,” Lombard said, noting that a second field is a possibility at a later date. “It’s not something that’s not happening, it’s just not happening in this phase.”

However, according to resident Art Verpent, Veterans Park should include the second field because the artificial turf field at Sabella Park is mainly restricted to Pop Warner use and Community Park “is designed primarily for youth.”

“This [park] is for adults,” he said.