Teaneck’s Milton Votee Park Closed After Soil Contamination Discovered
Citing possible environmental cleanup costs, Township Manager halts additional work on old police building renovations.
Milton Votee Park was ordered closed after routine soil tests revealed contamination levels above state safety guidelines, Township Manager William Broughton said in a statement released Wednesday night.
An architectural firm working on a project alerted the Township Wednesday morning that an environmental consultant had found levels of Benzo(a)pyrene and PCBs in a section of the park, the statement said. The levels did not exceed federal standards. The architectural firm, Gianforcaro Architects, Engineers & Planners, had been hired to work on the installation of an artificial turf field on a 4-acre area of the park currently used as a soccer field.
Officials immediately closed the park Wednesday after learning of the test results, the statement said.
“We expect additional testing will take a few weeks, after which I plan to hold a community meeting to share the results with the public and also discuss our plans for remediation of the affected areas,” Broughton said in a statement. “All efforts will be made to open the park as quickly and as safely as we can.”
A perimeter walking track will remain open, officials said.
Broughton said residents should remain calm and more information would be released as it’s collected.
"This just happened today and we got right on it," Broughton said in an interview Wednesday night. “I don’t think people should panic but it’s cause for concern for us because we want this to be a safe area for people to enjoy.”
PCB levels were found to be at 1.7 parts per million under a soccer field, more than the state’s .2 parts per million limit, but under the federal levels, Broughton said. Benzo(a)pyrene levels were measured to be at .36 milligram per kilogram, above the state's .2 limit.
Broughton said the environmental consultants told him that the PCBs were only harmful if ingested.
Samples were taken about six feet below ground, and the top soil had not yet been tested, Broughton said.
The source of the contamination is believed to be from fill used in the park decades ago, Broughton said in a follow up interview Thursday morning. The parkland was once a swampy marsh.
"It may have been filled in the 30s," he said.
The field would be fenced off, along with additional police patrols and signs around the park.
Superintendant of Schools Barbara Pinsak was alerted, and Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin said he was not immediately aware of any events being rescheduled.
It was not known how long the park would stay closed. Hameeduddin said officials didn't have any cost estimate for the cleanup yet.
“It’s hard to judge these things without knowing how much we have to cleanup,” Hameeduddin said. “Our number one issue is public safety.”
The possible costs of the cleanup prompted officials to halt work on the old police station project.
“Votee Park must be our priority in terms of spending taxpayer dollars and I cannot in good conscience continue with the old Police building until we know the full fiscal impact of the cost of remediation of the Park,” Broughton said in the statement.
Votee is Teaneck’s largest developed park and includes paved walking pathways, an in-ground swimming pool, basketball courts, an amphitheater and playground equipment.
Article updated at 11:20 a.m. Thursday with additional comments from Township Manager William Broughton.