By Ron Leir
Several underground oil storage tanks that were removed from municipal properties in Kearny years ago are still giving the town conniptions.
Town Administrator Michael Martello said that remediation efforts focused on contamination from those tanks – and possibly other sources – are being undertaken by the town’s environmental consultants, Hatch Mott MacDonald of Freehold.
That work has been completed at the Kearny Ave. firehouse near the East Newark border but is continuing at the EMS First Aid Squad at Liberty and Maple Sts., according to Dan Toper, a vice president with HMM.
Martello said the town knew about the contamination “once it took the 2,000-gallon storage tanks out of the ground” in the late 1990s but, essentially, “sat with it” until the state Department of Environmental Protection came out with new regulations dealing with cleanups arising from the removal of such tanks.
Municipalities were required to retain LSRPs (Licensed Site Remediation Professionals) to oversee those cleanups and Kearny designated HMM as its LSRP, Martello said.
Elaborating on the Kearny jobs, Toper said that after several underground tanks were lifted out of the ground outside Firehouse 2 on Kearny Ave., “there was some very minimal [oil] contamination in the soil left behind.”
At the time the tanks were taken out and some of the contaminated soil was removed, “the backfill used to fill the holes wasn’t totally clean because recycled concrete was used,” Toper said.
That issue was corrected by putting down an asphalt pavement over the affected areas, he said.
While the soil underneath the cap “exceeds the soil cleanup standards for the state,” the asphalt cap suffices for protection so that “everything is safe for the people around there,” Toper said.
At the First Aid Squad facility, Toper said that “a little more [soil] contamination and groundwater contamination” was detected. “We had to do indoor air testing and we found that the indoor air had a little bit of contamination over the trigger numbers, causing us to put in an indoor air mitigation system, similar to a typical home radon detection system.”
That mechanism, Toper explained, “creates a negative pressure under the building and any soil vapor that may be present gets pulled out by the system and prevents the indoor air from being contaminated from the groundwater below.”
At the same time, Toper said, “we’re also pumping out groundwater every month or so to help remediate that source of contamination so we’re working on two fronts.”
Toper said that traces of perchlorethylene, a dry cleaning fluid, was found in groundwater samples, which, he said, could be traceable to a dry cleaner shop around the corner on Kearny Ave., “but benzene, an oil derivative, is the main contaminant.”
Asked whether members of the squad could have been harmed from fumes from the contaminants, Toper said that from testing air samples from “the occupied portion” of the squad building, “we didn’t get much contamination” and, because the primary environmental issues of concern “are located in the basement and nobody works down there,” he believes squad members should have no fears.
“We have a little fan inside the building that pulls the soil vapor out of the ground,” he said. “We’ll go back periodically and test the indoor air and see if that system is being effective.”