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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE: 1/7/02
02/3

CONTACT: Amy Collings/NJDEP (609) 984-1795
or
Mark Broadhurst/for US Rep. Frelinghuysen 973-984-0711

FRELINGHUYSEN, USEPA, NJDEP, INTERIOR DEPT. OFFICIALS CELEBRATE LAND TRANSFER AT GREAT SWAMP

State and federal officials announced an agreement today that paves the way for conversion of part of a Superfund site into a visitor and environmental education facility at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) purchased the site, which adjoins the refuge, after asbestos contamination was discovered. Under the memorandum signed today, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a partner in the site remediation, is receiving $300,000 from the federal government to maintain the site. About 26 acres of uncontaminated land will be given to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

"I look forward to continuing to work to see that this property is transformed from an environmental blight to a model of environmental restoration," said Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.

EPA purchased the 30-acre site, formerly known as the Tielmann property, in 1998 and oversaw the clean-up process, which included encapsulating the asbestos in cement on about four acres of the property.

"This refuge is a testament to the good that can be accomplished when interested citizens come together in an important cause. And this is not an isolated case. More than 100 Superfund sites across America have been cleaned up and made available to their communities for productive use," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.

DEP will maintain the roughly four-acre remediated area which includes groundwater monitoring wells on the property, and will be responsible for maintenance of grassed portions of the remediated area.

"This partnership has resulted in a remediated site, an expansion of the refuge and the opportunity to increase environmental education. An environmental problem has become an environmental asset," said DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn.

"The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is an ecological gem that will shine a little brighter under this agreement," said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Acting Regional Director Dr. Richard O. Bennett. "On behalf of the Service, I want to extend our thanks to the many individuals and agencies whose collaborative efforts are benefiting our constituents and our environment."

"The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is very excited whenever we add land to the refuge, and can preserve wildlife habitat forever. Adding this property, however, also provides us with an opportunity to upgrade some of our public use facilities, expand our trails system and help restore a portion of the ecosystem," stated Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Manager Bill Koch. "The land includes a large barn, which we hope to convert into a 100-seat auditorium, and a base for outdoor environmental education activities. The house would become a visitor contact point, gift shop operated by the Friends of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, temporary lodging for refuge interns, and staff offices."

Exotic plant species from the former nursery operation would be replaced with native plants, shrubs and trees. A more complete assessment of the property and buildings will be conducted, and a use plan will be developed by the refuge.

"I think this is a very nice New Year's gift to Americans and their future generations. I want to thank the agencies and the many people who have made this agreement possible. Their time, patience and cooperation demonstrate a true partnership. The support and personal attention expressed by Congressman Frelinghuysen was no less than instrumental to the success of the partnership," said Koch.

The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, seven miles south of Morristown, receives approximately 375,000 visitors annually. The eastern half of the 7,500-acre refuge was designated by Congress as the Department of the Interior's first National Wilderness Area in 1968. The refuge includes 8 miles of trails, hosts more than 240 kinds of birds, 600 species of plants, and 26 threatened or endangered species. For more information, contact the refuge at 973-425-1222.

 

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