Springfield BOE Waiting on DEP to Remediate Contaminated Property
The Springfield Board of Education and Township Committee found out in November that the property deemed the "land swap" with turf field was contaminated.
The Springfield Board of Education is in the early stages of remediation on a parcel of property deemed the “land swap” with the turf field after finding out it was contaminated in November.
Back in November of 2012, the final engineering report on the property that was deemed the “land swap” with the turffield was said to be contaminated and the Board of Education is now up to date with filing the appropriate permits and paperwork with the Department of Environmental Protection and are waiting for their approvals to move forward with the remediation, according to Superintendent Michael Davino.
The agreement between the Township and the Board of Education was labeled the “Land Swap,” which stated that the township would put forward the bond for the turf field at Jonathan Dayton High School and the Board of Education would give the township the proceeds from the top property located between Route 78 and Tree Top Drive.
According to former Mayor and current committee member Ziad Shehady, the Township Committee was sent an email by the school board on Nov. 16, 2012 when the engineering company, Pennoni, alerted the board that the results of the phase two study were in.
“Township committee, FYI - Apparently the environmental results for the top are in but what result is we don’t know,” the email stated.
Also, in the same weekend, the township administrator sent Shehady an email that said the results had come in and the Board of Education wanted to meet on Nov. 19 to discuss the results.
According to officials, only a portion of the land is contaminated with chemicals that are typically left behind in places where there was once asphalt, or the tar used in asphalt, Shehady said.
It is believed that back in the 1960s there was a baseball field and some other athletic facilities on that parcel of land that were never properly removed, he added.
The phase two testing was carried out for about eight months prior to the conclusion of the Nov. 16 results.
“I have to wonder with everything going on since you have this gap between the bond being introduced in February of 2012 and all the testing going on, what they knew and what they didn’t know,” Mayor David Amlen said.
Davino said the board spoke to Pennoni several times during the testing, but he said, “You don’t get maybe findings.”
It wasn’t until the final report was released in November of 2012 that they knew what was wrong with the property, he said.
Davino said the board is looking at a projected cost of $250,000 for remediation of the top property that lies between Route 78 and Tree Top Drive.
Once the committee found out that the remediation cost would be somewhere between $200,000 to $250,000, it was agreed that the Board of Education would handle the clean up and whatever money the Board receives from the sale of the property will be given to the township and applied to lowering the long term cost of the bond, Amlen said.
Following the first phase of the study, which was conducted in 2011, the school board began looking into the idea of selling the land to the county, since the governing body had yet to move forward with plans for the land, Shehady said.
Subsequently, the county asked the Board of Education to conduct a phase two study.
Once the board decided to try and sell the property, the township attorney at the time met with the county to ask them if they would be interested in adding the property to their open space inventory.
Following the results of the phase one study, the county said they wanted to see the next level of testing done before they would consider buying the land.
According to Amlen, the board held a meeting with the county and township officials. At that time, county officials decided against the purchase of the property, reasoning that the initial testing was inconclusive, and showed the need for additional testing.
In 2012, the Board of Education and township officials decided to revert back to their original plan for the property. They redrafted the contract to include the stipulation that a phase two study be conducted.
The results of the study would then determine how the township would proceed.
“We can then choose to take it from you, or leave it with you and then you can either do any work that needs to be done, sell it and give us the profits, or we take it do whatever work needs to be done, sell it and take the profits,” Shehady said of the agreement.
Ultimately, upon receiving the results of the study, the township decided it was up to the board to pay the costs of remediation and give the township any profits that could be made from the sale of the top property.
Shehady pointed out that the original estimates never accounted for the sale of the top property.
Those calculations were never based on that land so the only thing that can happen is good can come of it,” he said. “You sell the land so you get the money, you offset it, it’s a win-win.”
As a guess, Amlen said after the costs of remediation the land could probably bring in $200,000 to $300,000.
“Which is better than nothing,” he said. ”But it’s not a million.”
Although Shehady suggested that four or five houses could be built on the land, Amlen guessed a developer could not build more than two or three homes.
“No developers going to do that, the houses would just be too much money,” Amlen said.
The remediation will bring the land to the point where it can be used as open space, not necessarily for development, he added.
Currently, the Board of Education has filed all the appropriate paperwork with the DEP, but the DEP needs to approve everything from the outlines and plans to the contractor, according to Davino.
“We actually think it’s a good thing we found something unknown,” Davino said. “Now it’s gong to be remediated and that’s what should be done.”