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Soil to be tested at Frenchtown industrial site


Frenchtown Borough Council gave permission to the Van Cleef brothers to test a seldom-used New Jersey picnic grove for pollution.

The Van Cleefs, doing business as Country Classics at Frenchtown LLC, hope to build 113 homes on the site of the old porcelain factory on Lower Eighth Street.

At the Sept. 5 council meeting their Licensed Site Remediation Professional, Brian Fenelly, gave a detailed report on the extent of contamination there. An LSRP is someone licensed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to direct the remediation of contaminated sites.

He said various environmental cleanups on the 7-acre site had been completed in 1989, 1996 and 2011, but Country Classics had more testing done before buying the site, found contamination, and then engaged Fenelly.

He reports there are pollutants typical of an old industrial site, including arsenic, lead, nickel, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and petroleum hydrocarbons in various places on the site. Fenelly said, “For an industrial site with a hundred-year history, it’s not terrible.”

He said the northwestern part of the property, where it borders Old Frenchtown Field, was used as a leach field, an underground area where wastewater is allowed to seep into the earth. Contamination has been found there, and Fenelly requested and received permission from council to expand the investigation into the adjacent part of the borough park, a wooded area between the soccer-field parking lot and the riverside path.

He expects the investigation to extend 100 to 150 feet into the park. “Depending on what we see, we might bump out further.”

Scott Van Cleef said, “Hopefully we’ll find our answers near the property line.”

Fenelly then reported on last month’s oil spill at the site. He said that a 20,000-gallon tank full of No. 2 home heating oil was found beneath a concrete slab on the site.

The demolition crew backed off and called in specialists. But in the interim, heavy rains flooded the diggings, and on Aug. 13 the storm water entered the tank through a hidden 2-inch opening and displaced some oil, which floated out and drained into a catch basin, then into a drainage ditch paralleling the riverside trail, and then into the river.

Before the leak was found and plugged, 30 to 40 gallons of oil had escaped. Fenelly based that estimate on the amount of oil and water that was in the tank after the spill.

Councilwoman Tami Peterson said that the borough is taking the spill seriously and asked, “Why didn’t somebody figure that there was an opening in the tank?”

Fenelly agreed it was “a terrible event,” and said, “Hindsight is 20/20,” then explained that part of the tank had been still covered by concrete, and “typically there’s a capped fill pipe, not a hole.”

Besides pumping out the tank, and spreading absorbent pads and booms along the oil’s route, 100 tons of contaminated soil were removed.

In other business, council promoted Senior Patrolman Robert Young to sergeant. He has been on the force since 2014. His dedication and people skills were praised by Police Chief Al Kurylka, as were his efforts during the recent fire downtown and after the recent discovery of skeletal remains in the river.

Young said that Frenchtown has become his “second family and my home away from home.” His children pinned on his new badge and held the Bible while he took the oath of office.