Estimated cost for environmental assessment of Princeton sewer department site is almost $164,000

The Princeton Council is slated to vote Monday night on a contract for a consultant to conduct an environmental assessment of the sewer department site on River Road, for a cost of up to $163,375.

Whitman Environmental Consulting, an environmental consulting firm based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has been selected to perform a preliminary environmental assessment of 298 River Road for the municipality.

Princeton officials were not required to conduct a competitive bidding process for the hiring of the environmental firm because the contract is for professional services.

Over a period of six weeks, Whitman will do a site survey, remove a container of asbestos found on the site, soil sampling and analysis to identify any potential soil contamination, and a post-sampling site survey. The assessment is required in order to determine the next steps on the property, which could include the removal of soils from the site. The fees for the assessment do not include the removal of soils or the remediation of the site.

On June 11, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation to the municipality for operating an illegal dumping facility at the site, which includes wetlands and is located in the northern section of Princeton near the Millstone River, bordering Montgomery, Rocky Hill and Kingston. Three Princeton employees have been fired because of illegal dumping activities at the site.

Whitman will conduct a wetlands survey and work to identify any potential environmentally sensitive natural resources near the site. The company will identify wetlands, streams, and other water bodies, previously identified New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection mapped wetlands and floodplains, specialized habits, land use restrictions, and any other information necessary to evaluate the property. Whitman will identify such features on the property, and within 150 feet of the property boundary.

Experts will assess whether illegal dumping, deforestation and the introduction of backfill to create roads, and other similar soil disturbances have occurred in the area of the wetlands.

“Hand auger cores will be collected in areas of suspected dumping to evaluate lateral extent of dumping. Observations of backfill, impacted soils, waste and other anthropogenic materials will be field located and tagged for future survey and removal,” reads the Whitman proposal. “The presence of distressed vegetation, discoloration and other indications of spills or introduction of chemicals will also be surveyed.”

Whitman will discuss findings and future steps that need to be taken to clean up the site with representatives from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

A ground penetrating radar scan will be performed prior to sampling activities to ensure that nothing is buried within the stockpile that would impede soil boring activities, according to the Whitman proposal. Whitman will utilize two drilling rigs and crews to perform the necessary soil borings. A minimum of 50 soil borings will be made at the site to identify soil impacts, and subsurface soils will be screened for the presence of volatile organic vapors. Up to 55 samples will be collected and tested for extractable petroleum hydrocarbons. Tests will also be conducted to rule out groundwater contamination. All samples will be sent to a New Jersey-certified laboratory for analysis. The turnaround time for results is two weeks. At the conclusion of sampling activities, Whitman will plot the locations of samples taken for use in Phase II of the project, waste classification and removal. Any identified wetlands will also be flagged. Phase II is not included in the environmental assessment fees.

According to a memo written by Jeff Grosser, assistant administrator for Princeton, the town is communicating with its insurance carrier to file a claim regarding potential soil contamination clean up at 298 River Road. It is unclear whether the insurance company will cover claims for the clean up. If the company does cover claims, there will still be a deductible. Previously officials said they would attempt to recoup the clean up costs from contractors who dumped materials at the site.

A week ago, Planet Princeton reached out to local environmental groups for comment regarding the illegal dumping at the River Road site.

Sophie Glovier, head of the Princeton Environmental Commission, said the commission requested an update at the last meeting.

“As you know, we work very hard to protect and enhance our local environment and it was disheartening to learn of the illegal dumping,” she said. “Although the Princeton Environmental Commission does not have enforcement powers and it is not our job as volunteers to test the site, we will be reviewing the site survey produced by the licensed site remediation professional and advising the council on determining next steps.”

Sustainable Princeton was asked to comment, and then issued a statement to its supporters a day after the request. Sustainable Princeton then forwarded that statement to Planet Princeton as its comment about the illegal dumping at the site.

“Dear SP Friends and Supporters, Some of you have reached out in recent weeks to express concern about the news of illegal dumping at the Sewer Department site on River Road and to ask if we know anything more than what has been reported in the press,” reads the statement. “The answer is no. Since this is a criminal investigation, we have no additional information beyond what has been publicly shared. However, we share your concerns about these violations and the potentially adverse environmental impacts to the surrounding area.”

The Sustainable Princeton statement then summarized actions the municipality has taken, and linked to a letter from the governing body that was already posted on Planet Princeton.

The head of the Watershed Institute did not respond to a request for comment.

An old satellite view of the Municipality of Princeton’s River Road facilities. On the upper left is the former town landfill, which has since been covered with solar arrays. In the center is the Stony Brook Regional Sewer Authority. To the right is the municipal sewer department and public works facility. The properties are all separated by fences.

Please share your thoughts on this story.

8 comments
  • If there are any honest town officials left, they might want to investigate the Lanwin property on Herrontown Road, just up the hill from the River Road facility. Lots of truck activity there, these last years, for a supposedly abandoned farm–and the lawyers for the owners (the Bryce Thompson family) have suddenly clamped down on any access whatsover. I wonder what they don’t want us to see?

  • Jo butler thanks for the information and the honest commentary. Just As the school district is using the same project management firm used in 2001 which resulted in cost overruns, shoddy construction and lawsuits. Why do the elected officials keep hiring these incompetent firms ? Time for a new group to take over, both the town leadership and the school board. It’s all the same people… they must go to parties and tell themselves everything is ok. Independent thought is frowned upon. And look where it has gotten the town – parking meter fiasco, IT theft, they can’t even get composting right. And shame on Molly Jones of Sustainable Princeton. She has to keep quiet or she will lose her cushy $75k job. Asbestos, diesel in the soil and sustainable Princeton has nothing to offer. I have donated generously to SP in the past but no more

  • @ Anonymous Breakdown for the Soil Sampling: $27,150 for the Drill Rig; $4,705 for Vehicles & Supplies; $1500 for HASP (?); $500 for PID Meter; $58,370 for Labor and $64,200 for Laboratory. Is the facility a crime scene? Illegal dumping and bribery have been charged. Who is providing oversight? Whitman had an attractive contract with the municipality during the hospital demolition/Avalon Bay construction project. Whitman ran up oversight charges that Council was assured could be charged to Avalon Bay’s escrow in nearly the exact amount of their escrow. When AVB challenged the charges in court, the town ended up settling for half the escrow ($50,000) plus the $30,000 we ran up in legal fees fighting it. We never tried to claw back a cent from Whitman. All that by way of saying, there is history between town and Whitman, our personnel and theirs. If we really want to get to the bottom of the story and hold people accountable, I don’t understand how the public can have confidence that will happen with Whitman. Isn’t there another reliable LSRP in NJ to provide an arm’s length assessment?

  • I work in the environmental consulting industry. That price seems exorbitant for the described scope of work. This is what happens when the jobs don’t go out to public bid.

  • I wonder if Princeton public officials followed up on, or ignored, the suggestions to add additional insurance coverage related to environmental issues offered through the Joint Insurance Fund (JIF). As related: http://www.njejif.org

  • It will be interesting if the Municipal officials took to heart the suggestion to engage the additional environmental insurance coverage or if they decided to skip it. As reference: http://www.njejif.org

  • Keep in mind this is just the cost to estimate how bad is the damage caused by the gross negligence in oversight by the governing body. Now, the price tag for the clean up could be 10+ times that amount given the proximity to wetlands.

  • Memo from the same Jeff grosser who is the health officer? The one who is supposed to protect residents and employees from public health risks like this one? Did mr grosser and his staff ever visit this site knowing that dumping routinely took place, even if it was legal dumping, collection of garbage, recycles and other stuff? Would seem a place health dept might want to visit sometime. Irony too thick.

Join Our Orbit

%d bloggers like this: