Faulty span delaying dredging

Photo by Ron Leir The Bridge St. Bridge, looking toward Newark from Harrison.
Photo by Ron Leir
The Bridge St. Bridge, looking toward Newark from Harrison.



The dredging of the contaminated Lyndhurst mudflats on the banks of the Passaic River won’t begin until the Bridge St. Bridge, which links Newark and Harrison over the river, can be fixed, officials say.

When the dredging begins, workers will be loading the contaminated soil onto barges that will be transported along the river to the Clean Earth plant in South Kearny for preliminary treatment and then will be shipped to an out-of-state landfill for disposal.

In order to facilitate those transports, several bridges that cross the Passaic must be opened to allow for the passage of the barges. However, one of those spans, the Bridge St. Bridge (accessed via Harrison Ave. in Harrison to enter Newark), a swing bridge, has been, essentially, inoperable since Superstorm Sandy damaged its two 50 hp motors.

The bridge, built by the American Bridge Co. in 1913 and rehabilitated in 1981, is operated and supervised jointly by Hudson and Essex counties on rotating two-year cycles, according to Hudson County spokesman Jim Kennelly.

“When Sandy hit, it happened to come on our watch,” Kennelly said.

“At some point, they have used trucks to pull the bridge’s swing arms,” he noted.

This year, falling as it does in the Hudson 2011-2013 rotation period, Hudson is responsible for getting the bridge fixed, he said.

“Delivery of new motors – whose cost is estimated at about $200,000 – was expected July 8,” Kennelly said. That didn’t happen. Now, they’re supposed to arrive July 19 and it will likely take from then until the month’s end to install them and work out the kinks, he said.

While the worry over fixing the motors has been the predominant issue for the dredging project, a new concern was raised by the Red Bulls professional soccer team, whose home stadium is in Harrison.

Harrison Mayor Ray Mc- Donough said the team management was irked that the Passaic River bridges’ openings to allow for the barge transports, would interfere with the sizeable volume of vehicular traffic during certain home games.

But Jonathan Jaffe, a spokesman for the Lower Passaic Cooprative Partner Group, representing some 70 corporations which have accepted responsibility for removing dioxin and other pollutants at the 5.5-acre Lyndhurst site at river milepost 10.9, said that won’t be an issue because the contractor in charge of work site will simply delay moving the barges until after the games have ended and fans have dispersed.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the work, the Lyndhurst dredging project will involve the removal of 20,000 cubic yards of tainted soil. Once that process – which figures to take about a month – is done, the contractor will place a two-foot cap over the dredged mudflats.

By year’s end, EPA is due to announce a proposed remediation plan for the 17-mile stretch of the Lower Passaic which will then be open for public comment before final adoption of the plan, officials said.

– Ron Leir

Learn more about the writer ...