No PCBs Discovered in Samples from AvalonBay Site, But Other Chemicals, Metals Above NJDEP Limits (Updated)

Samples of materials at the AvalonBay site tested negative for PCBs, but metals and chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were detected that exceed NJDEP residential standards, town officials said.

Because of the findings, AvalonBay is required by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to develop a remedial action work plan. Avalon Bay has already provided the plan to the state and the town.

The remedial action work plan requires that the site be capped. Capping involves placing a cover over contaminated material. AvalonBay’s remediation plan includes various kinds of caps including concrete slabs, crushed stone, shredded rubber, and one to two feet of clean soil added to the top of the surface in some areas. The surplus stockpile of recycled concrete site material will be removed from the site for disposal.

AvalonBay will be required to file a deed notice indicating the existence of contaminants capped on the site. In addition, Avalon Bay will be required to obtain a remedial action permit from the NJDEP. The NJDEP permit will require continual monitoring and semi-annual inspection of the cap.

Municipal staff members and the Whitman Environmental Firm have reviewed both the site investigation report and remedial action plan and finds that they meet the standards set forth by NJDEP and will provide appropriate safeguards to public health, town officials said. Once construction resumes, Avalon Bay will conduct appropriate air monitoring and dust control measures.

“In our continued efforts to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our residents, staff will continue to monitor the site to ensure the required safeguards are in place including the dust control measures and air monitoring,” said Princeton Administrator Marc Dashield in a written statement to the press. ”

A summary of the site investigation report and remedial work plan, including details about the capping materials, has been placed on the municipal website. The full report including attachments will be available in the municipal clerk’s office, Dashield said. AvalonBay hired EcolSciences, prepare the plan.

Construction work at the site stopped about a month ago after concrete material at the site tested positive for PCBs.

Concrete and brick from former structures and site improvements had been crushed with other site materials (including sub-base beneath foundations, walkways, and roadways, site soils, and a limited amount of pavement) for reuse at the site. The reused materials are spread throughout the site as “site soil” at a depth of between zero and seven feet depending on the location. Some surplus reworked site materials were stockpiled for offsite disposal.

Some of the materials tested were above the state’s “residential  Residential direct contact soil remediation standard” for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and one polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congener. AvalonBay alerted the DEP and the town about the test results and then followed up with more testing. The town received the results of the follow-up testing on Wednesday.


  1. How can it be that PCBs show up initially and then do not show up thereafter? I’d have thought a test would tell how much is in the soil, and whether at “acceptable levels.” Does DEP really accept 4″ topsoil and a (plastic? 4 mil? 1/2″ rubber sheet?) “cap”? How is the cap inspected semiannually if it’s buried? Will a report be filed semiannually with the town or the Board of Health? Is self-monitoring the right approach or should sampling be done, at Avalon’s expense, by an outside firm chosen by the town?

  2. The real question for The Hospital, the town of Princeton’s lawyer who negotiated away the public and the local governments’ interests vis a vis Avalon Bay and the Princeton Town Council, is why they disregarded the many layers of facts that indicated that the Avalon Bay Company was not a good partner for our town. The community including many local experts and the lawyers hired by Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods, testified before PrincetonTown Council warning that the project would pose big problems.

    1. I’m going to disagree with you there. First, at no point has public health been at risk during construction (source: Princeton Health Officer). Second, AvalonBay tested for chemicals as their work progressed. When they found evidence of contamination, they stopped work, performed mitigation, and developed a remediation plan, in full accordance with state standards. Just like they said they would. The people who dragged out the approval process for these apartments argued that AvalonBay could not be trusted. Those people have been proven wrong. Third, contamination at redevelopment sites is not unusual, and does not necessarily present a block to safe re-use of the site. Construction of the new Princeton public library, for example, required substantial remediation of hydrocarbon pollution from a previous use as a gasworks. Clearly it would be preferable if there was no contamination, but AvalonBay has proven to be a responsible actor, and has the experience to ensure that the site is properly made safe.

      1. From the beginning, AvalonBay’s policy has been to refuse to do testing for possible contamination, so they are less proactive than you make them out to be. See page 7 of the Remedial Investigation Report (Sept 21, 2015). It states that, “In preparation for disposal the stockpiled Reworked Site Materials were sampled by others for disposal for characterization by others, including TCL/TAL+30 analysis.” This indicates that additional testing was required by a third party, before the it could be trucked off site.

        In the phase 1 report (Sept. 15, 2011) prepared by EcolSciences for AvalonBay , it recommends that, “a subsurface investigation should be performed to determine if the underlying soils and groundwater have been impacted by the sewer lines and/or historic septic system discharges.” (see page 27).

        In EcolSciences Limited Phase 11 report (Nov. 9, 2011), groundwater was tested at two temporary well points and PAHs were detected above the groundwater quality standards (See Limited 11, page 10) No testing of metals was done at the time. To date, testing has still not been done for the underlying soils. In addition to being recommended by AvalonBay’s consultant, testing of the underling soils was also recommended by Princeton’s independent consultant Ira Whitman.

        In the Remedial Investigation report, mercury was detected at above Impact to Groundwater standards (Table 3, pages 3 and 4), but AvalonBay will not be testing
        the groundwater because “groundwater was not encountered in the Fall of 2014 during three monitor well gauging events.” (Remedial report, page 5). Since groundwater was found in 2011, shouldn’t groundwater be tested as soon as we have had some rain.

        The residents are quite right to take action in protecting their own health and safety as they are the people who are most immediately impacted. Under the circumstances, they should not be judged as “wrong”.

    2. This reflects a total disregard of the facts, the process, the role of various participants and the performance of both Princeton and Avalon Bay. The usual “we hate change” fear mongering that has delayed many projects in Princeton needlessly: the Spring Street parking garage, the library, the Arts Council, the Arts & Transit project. Would you have preferred a deteriorating hospital continue to stand on the site? Avalon was the only bidder. Avalon didn’t bring these contaminates onto the site – they were there when the hospital was standing. In five years, there will be 300 people living in new apartments, a short walk from town, infusing our community with additional economic vitality and we will look back on naysayers as we do with those who opposed the projects above, and we will be sad for those people and the near destruction their lack of strategic insight brings to our community.

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