Town urging action on meadows properties

Photo by Ron Leir/ A view of the Turco tract from the Belleville Turnpike.


Photo courtesy EPA/ Buildings on the Standard Chlorine site that were due to be torn down.



By Ron Leir


Two industrial eyesores on the town’s outskirts could get much-needed attention soon.

At its Feb. 7 meeting, the Kearny Town Council took aim at the old Standard Chlorine/ Standard Naphthalene property, a 30-acre meadows property in South Kearny that has been classified as a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The council voted to petition the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC), which has zoning jurisdiction over the property, to investigate the possible designation of the site, which lies off Fish House Road and which adjoins the old Koppers Coke property, as “an area in need of redevelopment.”

Mayor Alberto Santos said that since Hudson County – through the county Improvement Authority – is now actively soliciting potential development proposals for the Koppers site, “we want to make sure our parcels are also positioned for development and put back on the tax rolls.”

Santos said the area is currently zoned for heavy industrial use. Warehousing might be the most productive way to go, particularly for future employment, he said.

Santos said the town acquired a lien on the property after the former owners failed to pay $7 million in delinquent taxes. Kearny foreclosed about two years ago, the mayor said.

Brian Aberback, a spokesman for the NJMC, said last week it would be premature for the commission to respond to the town’s petition at this point.

According to an EPA fact sheet last updated in July 2011, the Standard Chlorine site, a peninsula along the Hackensack River, supported several chemical manufacturing companies from the turn of the last century to the 1990s, including production, storage and packing of moth balls and flakes.

“EPA added the site to its National Priorities List in September 2007 after samples indicated the release of dioxins, benzenes, naphthalene, PCBs and other semi-volatile or volatile compounds into the Hackensack River and adjacent wetlands,” the fact sheet said.

Discovery of these contaminants have prompted fish consumption warnings, particularly crab, and a health advisory has been issued for the river, “potentially due in part to contamination from the Standard Chlorine site,” the EPA said.

Contamination of the river has come from ground water and from overland runoff from a drainage ditch along the southern property line, two lagoons on the eastern part of the site, and from tanks and drums containing dioxin-tainted asbestos and other pollutants, according to EPA.

“The dioxin-contaminated asbestos has been collected and placed in shipping containers waiting for eventual transport, and all remaining tanks have been emptied,” EPA said. “… EPA is currently is working with NJ DEP (Dept. of Environmental Protection) to prevent the spread of additional contamination to surrounding areas….”

EPA’s Community Involvement Coordinator David Kluesner said that under DEP’s lead, workers have cut off the flow of some pollutants by installing a slurry wall at one site, by removing some contaminated soil and capping some areas with an impervious liner covered by dirt, and by dismantling some on-site structures and removing asbestos.

Now, he said, it falls to EPA to come up with a plan and design for final remediation. “We could be ready with such a proposal by 2014,” Kluesner said, “but that’s really hard to predict.”

Parties responsible for the cleanup, known collectively as the Peninsula Restoration Group, are Tierra Solutions, Inc., Standard Chlorine Chemical Company, Inc., and Beazer East, Inc., according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We’re also asking the NJMC to look at other parcels along the Belleville Turnpike west of the railroad bridge in addition to the ones we own to see if they meet the commission’s redevelopment criteria,” the mayor said. “We’re encouraging them to address all unused property, much of it vacant, and do it as coherent whole.”

On a second front, the Town Council voted to direct the Kearny Planning Board to investigate whether the area commonly known as the Turco tract at Belleville Turnpike and Sellers St. and a nearby twoacre property “qualifies as a redevelopment area.”

Kearny Town Administrator Michael Martello, who also serves as construction code official, characterized the eight-acre Turco property, listed as owned by Jeryl Industries, as “a hodgepodge of (land) uses. Conditions are deplorable from the tenants operating there.”

The property, which, according to Martello, carries a tax delinquency of $271,276 for 2011 and $135,638 for the first two quarters of 2012, has been cited for various local construction code violations and is involved in litigation with the town, Martello said.

Part of the industrial park includes a privatelyoperated roadway, Turvan Road – that snakes down from Schuyler Avenue past Arlington Cemetery through the rear of the industrial property and ending at the diner on Belleville Turnpike – which is in very bad shape, Martello said.

Newark attorney Howard Wachenfeld, who is now president of Jeryl Industrial Park, wrote Martello last September that he had two prospective buyers for the property willing to invest in “substantial” improvements, including the road.

But, Wachenfeld advised Martello he would likely be scaring off those purchasers “… if you are going to deny the issue of any Certificates of Occupancy (CO) to (my) tenants … because of the general condition of the Park, mainly the poor condition of the road” (which, Wachenfeld said, he paved in 2009 but was torn up by the “harsh winter of 2010- 11.”)

Asked about the situation last week, Martello said that his position hasn’t changed. Asked how many CO applications from Jeryl tenants are still pending, Martello replied: “There’s a bunch.”

“Any tenant who wants to occupy a building at the Park must first have site plan approval or approval for a variance,” Martello said. “Everything at that location is unsafe and I’ve told (Wachenfeld) that until you address those problems, I’m not going to issue any COs.”

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