Emergency water supply brought to Kopper’s site

KEARNY

The former Koppers Coke Seaboard Site in the South Kearny meadows may still be dormant,but the dust periodically kicked up from the sprawling tract has prompted action by the property owner.

Acting in response to complaints by some of the property’s industrial neighbors, the Hudson County Improvement Authority hired FTS Construction LLC for “emergency installation of water supply” at the site.

Projected cost for the job, awarded in June, was $57,700.

Norman Guerra, CEO of the HCIA, said late spring saw an occurrence of “excessive wind” bursts that combined with “dry conditions,” resulted in the blowing of dirt from Koppers through the area.

“We run water trucks in periodically,” Guerra said, “but the Koppers site is 138 acres and it becomes extremely difficult to manage.”

Guerra said there is a small 2-inch water line on the property which was left in place when the Koppers plant shut down in the 1970s “and it takes 40 minutes just to load one truck.”

He said the emergency project involved running a 4-inch line 700 feet through a tunnel to a pit to hook up to a 12-inch water line near the border of the property.

The water flow “will be improved under high pressure,” Guerra said, and there will be a back-flow preventer to control flooding and a water meter to calibrate the flow, he added.

As steps are taken to develop the property, a more permanent water infrastructure system will be installed but in the meantime, the emergency measure has been undertaken as part of a soil erosion program.

In 2012, the former N.J. Meadowlands Commission (subsumed by the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority) designated as an “area in need of redevelopment” the Koppers Seaboard Peninsula a 357-acre tract that includes Koppers, the 25-acre former Standard Chlorine property (a Superfund site) acquired by Kearny and the 27-acre former Diamond Shamrock site owned by the now-bankrupt Tierra Solutions.

In August 2013, the HCIA designated The Morris Companies of Rutherford as the prospective redeveloper of the Koppers portion of the Peninsula. That site is bordered by the Hackensack River to the north and east, Rt. 7 to the south and the Kearny Marsh to the west.

In January 2016 the HCIA signed a purchase/sale agreement with The Morris Companies but complications arose when New Jersey Transit announced its intentions to build a micro-grid facility to provide reserve power for its trains on a portion of the Koppers tract reportedly 26 acres in the central part of the site.

In the last couple of years, NJ Transit has been a partner to the negotiations with the HCIA and The Morris Companies and final terms and conditions of the redevelopment agreement are still being negotiated, with NJ Transit in the mix.

Morris has proposed building 2 million square feet of “big box” warehousing on the site.

Michael O’Connor, HCIA director of planning and energy, said the authority “has been working on development and permit issues to get to a [real estate] closing and construction.”

On a parallel track, O’Connor said, the HCIA is trying to “accommodate NJ Transit’s plans for a micro-grid by coordinating road and utility infrastructure to be utilized across the entire site” and also working to conclude “agreements with regulatory agencies” with jurisdiction over the site.

“Koppers is one of the largest redevelopment sites in the region and so this is an extremely complicated process,” O’Connor added.

If all the pieces fall into place, he said, “construction could begin on the infrastructure for the project by late 2018, along with the improvements.”

In May 2016, Kearny conditionally designated The Sitex Group LLC to redevelop both the Standard Chlorine and Diamond Shamrock (Tierra Solutions) sites, conditioned on Sitex acquiring the Tierra property and a portion of the Koppers site.

To date, that hasn’t happened.

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.