NJ DEP hosts virtual hearing detailing clean up of Liberty State Park interior in Jersey City

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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) hosted a virtual hearing about remediating the interior of Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

Photo via the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

NJ DEP Chief Advisor on Regulatory Affairs Sean Moriarty moderated the webinar and he began by saying that the NJDEP is committed to ensuring the park is cleaned to protect public health and ensure active recreation can occur in the park.

“We all take that solemn duty seriously,” he explained.

David Haymes, the NJ DEP director of the Division of Enforcement, Technical & Financial Support, said the site was initially composed of marshlands and made into land used for the rail yard.

They did so using historic fill made up of construction debris, soil, residue, ash, and non-hazardous waste.

Within LSP, the NJDEP conducted sampling in the interior and identified most of the land as having minimal contamination.

However, there is chromate and chromium contamination due to a sewer line in certain parts, so they will excavate three feet of soil in the contaminated areas and replace it with clean soil.

Additionally, State Forrester John Sacco said they want to open the 240 acres in the interior of the park.

A cap has been on the exterior 70 acres of the park and has held despite issues such as Hurricane Sandy, Sacco noted.

“We are confident based on that experience,” Moriarty noted regarding the cap.

Haymes said there would not be a liner since it is not needed. Drainage will be figured out and should be fine.

Honeywell is required to clean it up and remove the chromium since they bought the company that initially inadvertently polluted the interior.

To that end, David Doyle, the NJ DEP Case Manager for Hudson County contaminated sites, said Honeywell is required to have financial assurance as part of the court settlement.

“We are confident that will be covered,” Doyle said.

Liberty State Park is not the only site where they have must deal with the consequences of pollution.

He explained harmful chemicals can seep into a building since during the drying cycle of a building due to heat, certain chemicals can rise into the concrete foundation and the mortar between bricks.

This creates the yellow-green phenomena indicating chromate found in parts of Jersey City.

He noted they determined sites through investigations as well as the NJDEP’s lawsuit against Honeywell. Honeywell has investigated the sewer expansion done in the1950s where they may have used the fill.

The NJDEP still needs to get through a public comment period and has not projected the costs or set a timeline yet, though they have said it will take three months to dig out all the bad soil.

Moriarty also said he doesn’t anticipate a dog burning a hole beyond the cap. LSP staff will be trained by the NJDEP to spot and address such issues.

“Thank you to the knowledgeable department officials this evening,” Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin said during the public portion of the hearing.

“We support active recreation,” Pesin added.

He added that “fear-mongering” by Liberty National CEO Paul Fireman and his allies regarding pollution allegations are baseless.

Pesin added he wanted funding for the park clean-up and development to come without any quid pro quo that would give away the peninsula through privatization and fund active recreational development the way Fireman wanted.

He noted the Liberty State Park Protection Act, which would end the threat of privatization, has 92 groups supporting it.

Liberty Sate Park for All, one of the group’s wearing of potential pollution at the site, said through their executive director Arnold Stovell that yesterday’s meeting was promising.

“Liberty State Park For All wants to see a clean-up at Liberty State Park that makes the community truly safe: that allows for active recreation and removes the threat of contamination from the men, women, and families that live near the park and that visit it every year,” Stovell said in a statement.

“We believe last night’s meeting showed promise and a willingness on DEP’s part to continue to hear and act on our concerns.”

The interior of the park became restricted just 20 years ago, while the park itself was established in 1976.

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