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.