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Bags of asbestos pipe wrap found in a large container at Princeton sewer department site were compromised

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An uncovered container full of asbestos pipe wrap that was discovered by a county inspector earlier this month at the municipal property on River Road in Princeton.

An environmental consultant examined a container full of bags of asbestos pipe wrap that was found at the River Road sewer department site, and discovered that the bags were punctured and the container had holes in it, according to a public document reviewed by Planet Princeton.

On Monday night at a 7 p.m. public meeting, the Princeton Council is slated to hire Whitman, a Pennsylvania-based environmental firm, to perform an environmental assessment of the River Road sewer site for a cost of up to $163,375.

According to the work proposal submitted by the Whitman firm on July 2, a container of asbestos pipe wrap that was found on the site was there for between two and seven years. The bags had holes in them and so did the container they were in.

“The bags are punctured and the roll off has a number of holes in it, allowing collected water to run out and potentially impact the surrounding soil,” reads the document. “There is also evidence of diesel spills due to asphalt hot box clean out by contractors on site.”

In addition to conducting an environmental assessment of the property, Whitman’s proposal included securing the container of asbestos on site “to prevent any further degradation of the bagged material and minimize impacts to the environment.” Representatives from the firm have already secured the container full of asbestos at the site, according to the proposal document. Field staff covered the container with two layers of plastic sheeting and secured the layers to the container with duct tape. Holes in the container were sealed with expandable foam, and asbestos warning signs were placed all four sides of the container.

The firm will test soil and water on and near the River Road property, and attempt to determine if materials dumped at the site have impacted the wetlands both at the site and possibly into neighboring Montgomery, according to the proposal document.

Federal and state regulations detail how asbestos should be removed and transported. In New Jersey, registered solid waste vehicles are required for the transportation of asbestos-containing materials. All vehicles transporting asbestos must be designed to prevent any spillage, leakage or emissions. No transporter is allowed to transport asbestos unless it is properly packaged in accordance with federal regulations. The asbestos also must be transported in a manner that prevents the rupture of the asbestos containers. Once collected, asbestos must be transported directly from the point of generation to the solid waste landfill or transfer station that is permitted to receive such waste, according to state regulations.

The River Road site is not licensed as a solid waste landfill and cannot accept asbestos. On June 11, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection issued a violation notice to the municipality of Princeton for operating an illegal solid waste facility at the River Road site. Three Princeton employees have been fired so far in the illegal dumping scandal, and one has been charged with second degree bribery for allegedly accepting kickbacks in exchange for allowing contractors to dump dirt, asphalt, and other materials at the site.

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Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

21 Comments

  1. I guess all the chaos about the sewer department has died down smh business as usual some people still got away with not getting fired only in Princeton

  2. Reminiscent of the 1940’s

    PP: The interactive space in this forum, where individuals can post responses concerning public issues, represent a designated public forum—a space PP has intentionally opened up for the expression of views. In suppressing or censoring expression violates the most fundamental of all free-speech principles: as long as the comments posted are responsible, PP cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination of citizen speakers, no matter the opinion. Nor should they imply identity of any such expressions (regardless of source), doing so is a complete violation of public trust.

    Free speech, free press, free country!

  3. Krystal: Have you removed the misleading post by the banned commenters? They may, in fact, be of interest. But I’d suggest they be marked so that we know whether a displayed comment has come from a banned party potentially affiliated with a certain enterprise in Edison or perhaps an individual implicated in this mess–not that it hasn’t been reasonably obvious from the start who was posting what and why. Still, if a commenter has been banned, any remaining posts should probably be flagged so that they may be read in that light.

  4. Asbestos siding for houses has not been manufactured or sold for many years, because it is a hazard. Siding shingles that are old but solid are safe enough, as long as they are left alone. But any shingles that are cracked and folded or bent, or any pieces broken off, those are releasing asbestos fibers into the air, and are thus definitely not safe. When a siding job is needed, most contractors will only put new cladding on top of the existing stuff. Any teardown or removal of residential asbestos siding is an environmental job, with lots of extra rules, procedures, and expense.

  5. Planet Princeton has a comment policy that we have enforced from the start. That policy does not allow people to use multiple user names/handles when in fact they are the same person. It does not allow the use of commenting with different handles to mislead readers. In some of the stories related to the sewer department facility on River Road, commenters from the same email address or IP have commented using different handles. It also appears that these comments are not from disinterested parties. In one case the IP addresses originated from Edison, NJ. In another case they originated from Browns Mills. The users have been banned. Read our full comment policy here: https://planetprinceton.com/planet-princeton-comment-policy/

  6. Krystal, due diligence in journalism requires you to know the difference, not just arbitrarily report unrelated segments from another report, wouldn’t think?

    The photo above is of a container leased by ICUNJ, you must know that much, right? We now know by way of certification that it contains Transite pipe collected during the performances of various municipal projects, and nothing more. What correlation could there be to associate this photo to a comment found in the Whitman report about asbestos pipe wrap, in a phantom container nonetheless?

  7. “Asbestos pipe wrap” is the wording taken directly from the Whitman report. The Whitman report says nothing about Transite. I have to go by the wording I have from the document. For all I know, there is more than one container on the site (based on the NJDEP inspector report). I have no idea whether the container mentioned in the Whitman report has any connection with the container mentioned in the story about the court case and contractor ICUNJ. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. If it does have a connection, I’m sure we will receive more details from Whitman about what exactly is in the bags. But “asbestos pipe wrap” is the term Whitman used.

  8. Kate, to my earlier comment, the headline “asbestos pipe wrap” is misleading. The court record indicates it is nonfirable Transite pipe, the same material found on millions of homes throughout the country. To avoid inflammatory liable, reporting must be responsible!

  9. Dear Anonymous, yes, I’m aware of the asbestos-shingled homes and the inherent danger; but your attempt to deflect from the potential danger posed by the alleged breach here locally seems disingenuous. I hear echos of parental admonition, “Two wrongs don’t make it right.” Again, please identify yourself. I appreciate that you seem to be interested in ‘not fueling the rhetoric.’
    Hiding behind anonymity casts a shadow on your motive.

  10. I used the exact wording in the Whitman report to describe the piping. I have no idea what kind of material is in there. I’m sure we will get more details at a later date.

  11. Dear Kate, are you aware that Transite shingles wrap many homes through the country? If the transite pipe, wrapped in multiple layers of plastic, should warrant this type of alarm, what say you about the hundreds of thousands transite shingled homes through the country entirely exposed to the elements?

  12. Another thing, it is getting boring always hearing the same words, “worrisome”, “troubling”, “concerning”. No kidding, you think?
    Of course, the best excuse is not been able to talk because an investigation is going on.
    What a disservice to this town and all those who voted for you.
    I am fed up of hearing the same lines; this is local politics, fix the problems that exist instead of embarking in new fancy projects; set the priorities straight, and get yourselves thick skin and humbleness, criticism is part of the deal, you don’t know everything so please, resort to plenty of intelligent people who will gladly volunteer to offer their expertise.

  13. For a town like Princeton, with such high property taxes, they are not offering much of basic services.

    It seems that they need to actually check what is going on at all departments; in other words, it is time for government to do the job, oversight is part of it!

    It is also time for the environmentalists, compost fans, bike riders and hikers, sustainable people, whatever name suits them, time to march on the streets of this town and protest for what has been happening.

    As I said before, credibility of government and all the commissions, boards, etc., is way below zero. It seems that what they all want is their resumes to look good and to be part of the “cool” crowd. And we are talking about adults here, but is looking a lot like HS, and it is pathetic.

  14. Dear “anonymous” – the problem is “over the years, weather damage and general wear and tear can damage the material to the point where it becomes friable” and it seems the bags have been sitting for years. It’s really too bad you don’t identify yourself.

  15. ‘Bags of asbestos pipe wrap”, it’s my understanding the bags contain nonfriable transite pipe; is someone stoking the fire a bit?

  16. Have we heard from Jeff Grosser about the potential health impact to workers on the river road site and also do residents living near the facility have anything to be concerned about? Asbestos is an extremely toxic and deadly material. Would like to hear from the health department on this. Maybe PP could get a comment from the health dept?

  17. This situation is a symptom of an entrenched problem in Princeton that we, the citizens of the town, need to solve asap. There is a structural, fundamental lack of accountability of elected municipal officials to the voters & taxpayers of Princeton. It is because the town votes overwhelmingly Democrat (especially in presidential voting years – and since Consolidation the mayor is elected in presidential years). The Democrat will always win in our town and Democratic party nominating process for municipal offices is based on a private club process, and is in-clubby (the “popular kids” of the local Dem club are nominated). Die-hard, life long Democrat here, and glad Princeton is a Democratic (big D) town, however, as things go now, those in municipal offices are only “accountable” to the Democratic club nominating process because all they have to “earn” is the party (club) nomination to win office. Because we are such a Democratic (big D) town, we’ve ironically lost the “small d” democratic principles and elected rep accountability directly to the voter/taxpayer/citizen on local issues. Dem Party candidates just ride in to office on the very strong Democratic “coat tails” when many transient residents without knowledge or investment of local issues will just vote the Democrat in. We need to change our municipal elections to non-partisan so that our reps win office on local issues not a Dem party club popularity contest.

  18. So anyone that has been to that site has been potentially exposed? Is that correct? Not sure how asbestos contamination works. Visitors? Residents? Employees? Contractors? Sounds like potential lawsuits could be possible.

  19. People will be lucky if they don’t go to jail for this. An outrage of the highest order, especially in a community that pays such lip service to environmental sensitivity.

  20. This breach of public trust just keeps getting more and more alarming. Two to 7 years and no “eyes” saw what was happening? Was it ignorance? complacency? hubris? My bet is hubris. Is there any correlation to the timing of the asbestos dumping with the consolidation of the 2 Princetons? Less oversight, perhaps, with the re-structuring of departments and supervision? There might be a correlation – not sure but makes me wonder.

Please share your thoughts on this story.

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