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Teaneck Council Approves New Testing for Park Contamination

Tests set to begin Friday after town council OK's $140,290 contract

The Township Council voted Thursday to approve additional environmental testing to determine the scope and impact of soil contamination at . 

In a 5-0 vote at a special meeting, the council awarded a $140,290 contract to Fairfield-based GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc. The move cleared the way for soil tests across the 40-acre park, including further tests at the playing fields set to begin Friday, officials said.

The after officials said they learned levels of benzo(a)pyrene and PCBs above state guidelines had been found.

Mercury levels above the state’s limit for possible groundwater contamination were also found, according to a report from GZA GeoEnvironmental. More tests would be done to determine if the contamination was widespread and if it posed any health risks.

The approved sum included $125,255 for work associated with a site investigation into historic fill at the park, and $15,035 for remedial investigation at the soccer and football fields, according to the council’s resolution.

In the site investigation, GZA GeoEnvironmental will analyze if contaminated "historic fill" was used in a 24.48 acre section of the park, according to company documents. The remaining money will be used for work including tests at the fields. Engineers will also investigate if a 2 foot “clean cap” exists above the contaminated soil. 

So far, contamination has been found about 6 and 7 feet below ground, but township officials want to determine if topsoil at the fields is also impacted.

“It’s certainly going to be more of an issue if it’s in the topsoil than if it’s 7 or 8 feet deep,” said Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen.

Work on 8 or 9 additional soil borings would start Friday, said Township Manager William Broughton. Testing on the entire park was scheduled to begin the week of Jan. 4, and would involve about 32 borings. 

“Time is of the essence,” Broughton said. “The park is the center of recreation for the township and I think it’s important that we move forward with this initial stage to find out if we have contaminants at the top level of the soil.”

Councilwoman Barbara Toffler voted for the resolution, but said she would have preferred if GZA GeoEnvironmental representatives had attended the council meeting to answer questions. 

“I wish there had been a little bit more investigation rather than just going with GZA,” Toffler said. 

The firm was already working for the township when it discovered contaminants through soil tests as part of a project using $750,000 in state Green Acres funds to install artificial turf on the fields.

Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin said he was confident in the firm and wanted the environmental tests to move ahead.

“I would like to see the park back in use by the summer,” Hameeduddin said.

Some residents at the meeting expressed concern that the project would drag on and asked that testing be closely vetted.

Township Attorney Stanley Turitz said the town had consulted with an environmental attorney on the contract. 

In response to a parent’s concern, Broughton said there was no risk to drinking water at the or in the park.

Levels of benzo(a)pyrene and PCBs were above state safety limits, but below federal standards, officials said.

One soil sample, collected almost 7 feet below ground, revealed PCBs at 1.7 parts per million, above the state’s .2 limit, officials said. Another sample, collected nearly 6 feet below ground, turned up benzo(a)pyrene at .36 milligram per kilogram, above the state's .2 limit. Both levels were below federal safety guidelines, officials said.

Two of eight samples picked up mercury at 0.12 parts per million and 0.15 parts per million, an environmental report said.

Art Vatsky December 23, 2011 at 07:47 AM
Noah: Considering that Votee Park had drainage and construction work done on it previously, were there any soil contamination samples taken, say, in the last 25 years? After all, this is NJ, the state with the most superfund sites in the nation. There could be soil sample results sitting in a township file that might confirm/locate contamination levels. It would also give the locations where samples had been taken previously. Has anyone asked such a question?
Barbara Ley Toffler December 23, 2011 at 05:02 PM
To clarify my position last evening: I would have been more comfortable if we had dealt separately with the two parts of the contract, in which case I would have voted only for the first part as follows: If we had done two separate resolutions, we would have agreed first to spend $15,000 to test the surface soil on the soccer field and related areas where we have done the deep core historical testing. With those results (before the first of the year), we would better know the relationship between 6-7 foot deep contamination and top soil contamination, and then, with second project/resolution been able to design the $125,000 part of the testing based on those findings. As it is, the $125,000 will be used for deep historic fill sampling -- 2 drillings per acre -- not knowing if we should at the same time be building in the topsoil testing to have a fuller analysis and a completion point on this project. As it is, we well may next have to go and do topsoil testing on those 70 plus deep soli cores. Haste makes waste comes to mind.
Zev Mo Green December 23, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Do we have any plans on testing any of the other parks/schools, to insure that this isn't part of a larger problem?
JamesTS December 23, 2011 at 09:28 PM
I agree with Council member Toffler. Why didnt anyone from GZA come to the meeting? Just looks bad if not to just answer questions. I understand the need to move ahead but it wouldnt have taken much to bring GZA to the meeting for some quick Q and A.
Barbara Ley Toffler December 23, 2011 at 10:32 PM
To Zev, None that I know of. We have several professional in Teaneck in the fields of environmental management, epidemiology, environmental and occupational health and safety, superfund and brownfields remediation. we should be inviting these experts to perhaps present a panel discussion for the public -- and perhaps put together their thoughts to guide those of us who have to make decisions on these hugely complex issues.
Art Vatsky December 23, 2011 at 10:54 PM
James and Barbara: Useful and constructive comments. Pollution reports can be misconstrued, cause deep worry, need to be placed in context. For all we know the danger was never there, has passed or will be rising. Local professionals who are willing to volunteer, might educate the council and public. Perhaps at some point, they should be compensated for their efforts. Remember, they still have to pay Teaneck taxes.
Barbara Ley Toffler December 28, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Art, I believe several of our local professionals would be happy to provide their expertise at no cost at any time. There truly are many many talented residents who simply want to help Teaneck in whatever way they can, and we should welcome their generosity.
Karin Kiesow-Irvine December 28, 2011 at 04:21 PM
So have any of these local professionals stepped up and offered their free services? I am just curious.
Barbara Ley Toffler December 28, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Hi Karen, Yes. Charles (Chuck) Powers (yes, my husband), is a professor of Civil Engineering at Vanderbilt University (working out of NJ), and heads a multi-university project focused on cleaning up the nuclear waste sites in U.S.. He has headed non-profit insitutions that cleaned up many superfund sites, including establishing mechanisms for dividing up fair-share costs among potentially responsible parties, and is the person who developed the concept of Brownfields and then oversaw a national project to identify, remediate and return to productive use over 100 of them (check out Charles W. Powers on internet). Chuck has offered his services as a consultant commpletely without cost to William Broughton and the township. At the special meeting last Thursday, Chuck spoke at length with Ken Hoffman, a leader in sports activities in Teaneck. Ken is an epidemiologist and he and Chuck have worked with many of the same leading scientists in the country on related toxic waste and contamination issues. Ken, I believe, would be happy to join with Chuck and to bring in some of the people they have worked with including scientists from EOHSI (Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety Institute) at UMDNJ (also at no cost). I haven't spoken to him about this, but I believe Harry Kissileff, head of our Environmental Comm. and a research scientist at Columbia University would also work on a team panel/consulting group with Ken and Chuck at no charge. This is just for starters!
Karin Kiesow-Irvine December 28, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Hi Barbara... Well it would seem we have a nice little local group going that could help us residents understand what is going on and what the soil test results mean (once those tests are complete). As a side note my name is spelled with an "i"..just a small pet peeve :)
Barbara Ley Toffler December 28, 2011 at 05:48 PM
Hi Karin, Sorry re the spelling. I have friend whose daughter's name is Sharin and one whose daughter is Keryn. Now I've got three spellings I';ll try to remember to get right! Yes, we do have a local group who could be enormously helpful both in telling us what test results mean, and in guiding the town leadership in making the complicated decisions that will probably have to be made. As I said at the Council meeting -- I've been living with one of the leaders in the environmental field for 30 years -- and mostly what it's done is shown be that I know enough to know how much I DON'T know! Maybe a group of us can organize a townwide meeting with a panel discussion a series of cottage/parlor gatherings with several experts as early testing results are made public. I believe testing of topsoil and the soccer field was begun last Friday, so some early results should be available soon. And BTW, for everyone to know, according to GZA's contract with the town, they only keep sample materials for 30 days unless the client arranges toi pay for storage (or provide their own storage). So residents should be acting to make sure that all soli samples taken are kept for as long as any diagnosis and remediation are being conducted.

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