The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection unveiled its plans to remediate the contaminated interior of Liberty State Park, 234 acres of parkland that has been long fenced off from the public.
David Haymes, director of the DEP’s Division of Enforcement, Technical and Financial Support, said during a public meeting Thursday that the state plans to cap the entire interior of the park with at least 1 foot of clean soil.
The interior land contains what’s known as historic fill, which was used to raise the topographic profile a contaminated site. Historic fill can include debris, dredge spoils, incinerator residue, and non-hazardous solid waste.
Haymes said the 1-foot cap is the standard practice for remediating sites that contain historic fill.
“In fact, in the state of New Jersey there are over 1,700 sites throughout the state that have implemented a capping remedy. This includes other parks and recreation areas and even some residential properties,” Haymes said.
“In these instances, the presence of the cap eliminates the exposure to the contaminates. In short, the cap equals no exposure.”
The DEP also unveiled plans for more extensive remediation needed for a narrow corridor of the interior where a sewer line runs. Three feet of chromium-contaminated soil surrounding the sewer line will be replaced with 4 feet of clean soil.
Haymes said Honeywell International is responsible for the sewer line and will be in charge of both capping and maintaining the cap along the line. There will be around the clock maintenance and security to make sure the cap isn’t tampered with at any point, he added.
The remediation of the park’s interior has become a hot button issue in recent months. Liberty State Park for All, a group that has publicly called for a full cleanup of the interior and the addition of active recreation amenities, expressed some initial satisfaction with the DEP’s presentation.
“We believe tonight’s meeting showed promise and a willingness on DEP’s part to continue to hear and act on our concerns,” the group’s executive director Arnold Stovell said in a statement. “We will keep pushing for a clean-up at the park that is consistent with standards used in white communities and for active recreation. The fight continues and we hope DEP will remain our partner in this process.”
Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin voiced his support for the plan.
“The Friends supports the DEP’s standard protective remediation plan for the majority of the interior — based on the interior’s low-level contamination in the ‘historic fill’ by using the required and necessary clean fill capping,” Pesin said. “I’m also glad to hear that Honeywell will be remediating the one ‘hot spot’ along a pipeline in the standard required way.”
But local activist Bruce Alston said the plan does not go far enough. He insisted the cleanup be on par with the remediation done for Berry Lane Park and the Bayfront site.
Greg Remaud, executive director of the New York-New Jersey Baykeeper, said he is all for a full cleanup but would need to see scientific evidence showing that one is needed. He said if a full cleanup was necessary, his organization would have sued for it by now.
“If anyone wants to see more, the question would be where and why,” Remaud said. “We are all for it, but we don’t believe in saying clean it up just because you want to clean it up. You have to base it on science.”