Contamination Found in Votee Park Surface Soil
Officials working to find new space for local sports teams forced out of the park.
Tests collected this month have turned up potentially harmful surface soil contamination in Teaneck’s Milton Votee Park, an environmental consultant working for the township said Tuesday night.
Benjamin Alter, a principal with GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc, said 19 of 50 soil samples in the park’s northern area revealed levels of benzo(a)pyrene above state safety limits. Exceedances were found within 6 inches of the surface, he said.
"You could just reach down and touch them and put them in your hand and squish them around,” Alter said of the soil samples. “And if you are a baby or toddler or a young child, you will, as small children do, put your hands in your mouth and that’s the ingestion pathway.”
Benzo(a)pyrene is a known cancer-causing agent in humans, according to the American Cancer Society. Alter said he would provide township officials with public health information from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
One sample, collected between 1 1/2 to 2 feet below ground, showed benzo(a)pyrene at .214 milligrams per kilogram, above the .2 state limit, according to data provided Tuesday.
The 40-acre park was closed last month after October soil tests showed levels of benzo(a)pyrene, PCBs and mercury under the soccer fields. Teaneck officials had ordered more tests throughout the park to determine the scope of the problem.
Additional tests would be conducted for lead, cadmium, zinc and antimony, which were also recently found to exceed state screening levels for possible groundwater impact, Alter said.
Lead showed up in one surface sample and one deeper sample out of 106 in total, Alter said. The surface sample of lead, discovered in the park’s southwest corner, came in at 2,300 parts per million.
“That’s a very high number,” he said. “That is going to have to be remediated in some way.”
The contaminated soil can be covered or cleaned out, Alter said.
Tuesday’s news came in contrast to a presentation held earlier this month, where tests signaled levels of benzo(a)pyrene and PCBs near the surface of the soccer fields did not exceed state safety guidelines. The newly discovered contamination elsewhere in the park has prompted township officials to begin searching for temporary space for sports teams.
“We're talking about a pretty significant project with a pretty significant timeline,” said Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen. “I don't think we can plan any activities for these fields for anytime soon.”
Township Manager William Broughton said the county was contacted for athletic space. New fencing would likely be installed to keep people out of the impacted areas.
"We're going to further examine what areas of the park can be open and what needs to be closed,” Broughton said.
Although the results released to date have been preliminary, Broughton said he wanted the process to be transparent.
“This is the data,” he said. “We want the public to know exactly what’s going on.”
"This could have been buried for weeks while things were being investigated," said Dr. Kenneth Hoffman, a Teaneck Junior Soccer League board member, who thanked officials for being forthcoming with information.
"I think a lot more information is going to be coming relatively soon, but it's not immediate," he said. "This is going to take time."
Ari Rubin, of the Teaneck Baseball Organization, said he hoped the town would be able to find new fields in time for playing season.
GZA GeoEnvironmental’s final report is due by March 8, but Alter said he was working to submit it early. The firm will also develop a remediation plan before the town collects bids on the cleanup project.