Comments on cleanup were off-base

I am compelled to respond to the misleading statements in Edward P. Trzaska’s letter to the editor ("East Brunswick Mayor’s Building Plan Is Environmentally Unsafe," Feb. 16, Sentinel) regarding the cleanup of the L.J. Smith site in East Brunswick.

Mr. Trzaska’s inaccurate and reckless statements are evidence that his chemical engineering background does not qualify him as an environmental expert in pesticide remediation.

Our company continues to work closely with the East Brunswick Planning Board, its experts and state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials to comply with any and all applicable rules that govern this type of cleanup procedure.

I offer the following commentary in response to Mr. Trzaska’s allegations:

First, this is not "Mayor Bill Neary’s plan" for the property; it is our proposal as part of an accepted pesticide remediation strategy authorized by the DEP. Following more than two years of study by a special state task force on historic pesticide contamination, regulatory guidelines were accepted by the DEP to permit just this type of cleanup on farms that contain residual pesticides in the upper soil layer. Different options are afforded under the regulations; however, the approach taken at the Smith Farm is the most appropriate, according to environmental experts.

Second, Mayor Neary and his Township Council have not been involved in the deliberations on our cleanup plan and proposed subdivision. Rather, the township planning board granted a grading, demolition and soil remediation site plan approval last fall; that approval, however, is conditioned upon compliance with many other regulatory requirements. One such requirement is that we obtain final approval of the pesticide remedial action work plan from the DEP before grading work can begin. That approval is expected shortly. Furthermore, in working closely with the planning board, its professional staff, consulting engineers and environmental experts, careful scrutiny of our operation is required and regular inspections will be conducted to ensure compliance with the remediation plan.

Third, the proposed soil exchange (burial) process is an accepted remediation option. Right now, the farm has more than 40 acres of orchard area with exposed soil posing a potential threat. As has been the case for decades in New Jersey, thousands of homes have been built on similar ground with no remediation. Burying the material under a minimum of 18 inches of compacted fill and topsoil that is permanently stabilized and deed restricted from further development, is more than adequate to prevent people from coming in contact with the subsurface materials. Contrary to Mr. Trzaska’s assertions, the top layer of soil does not mix itself without mechanical intervention. Permanent seeding and stabilization of these open space areas will be accomplished immediately upon completion of the soil remediation operation, and must be routinely inspected to ensure a safe and stable condition.

If Mr. Trzaska was better informed on environmental cleanups like this one (and other more seriously contaminated sites throughout the state), he would know that it is commonplace to situate recreation areas and other uses on top of these soils, with proper cover. Matzel & Mumford intends to fully disclose to all of its buyers in writing the cleanup procedures that will have taken place on the Smith Farm property. All homeowners within the project will be fully advised as to the location of the disposal areas and the ongoing obligation (through a property owner’s association) to maintain the areas and comply with annual inspection requirements of the DEP. In terms of buyer disclosure, any other approach would be imprudent.

While Mr. Trzaska is entitled to an opinion, it should be an informed one. His claim that our cleanup procedures are "environmentally unsafe" is simply untrue.

David B. Fisher, PP, AICP, is vice president of land development for Matzel & Mumford, Hazlet.