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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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December 9, 2004

Contact: Fred Mumford
(609) 984-1795

Buried Fuel Contamination Found During County Recreational Field Improvements

(04/139) TRENTON -- Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today joined with Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. to announce an immediate cleanup will begin at Branch Brook Park in Newark to remove contaminated soil found during construction of two new recreational fields at this county facility.

"Branch Brook Park is an important resource for the community and it is vital that the state begin this clean up to protect public health and the local environment," said Acting Governor Richard J. Codey. "When these park improvements are complete, residents will have first class facilities on which to play baseball and softball."

"We're taking action to clean up the park to ensure this recreational haven poses no environmental concerns to the community," said Commissioner Campbell. "DEP has supported County Executive DiVincenzo's efforts to upgrade Branch Brook Park with Green Acres funding. Now, we will move quickly to clean up the contamination found so that field renovations can continue."

A county contractor uncovered the contamination in October during renovation of several athletic fields used for recreational baseball and softball. DEP began testing the site later that month to determine the extent of the newly found contamination. The tests revealed gasoline and diesel product under the locations of two fields, while the area for three other fields was unaffected.

"This is a great example of the County and State working together to find a solution to remove the contaminated soil and still renovate the recreation fields, all for the benefit of our residents," DiVincenzo said. "Branch Brook Park is the first county park in the country and it is a place where hundreds of young athletes play their games and learn about teamwork and sportsmanship. With help from Green Acres we already were in the process of upgrading the recreational facilities in the park and with the DEP's help again we will remove the contamination from the park," he added.

DEP authorized $500,000 to design and construct a fuel product recovery system to address the contamination found on site. Soil saturated with fuel will be removed for off-site treatment.

DEP's contractors will continue testing and cleanup work through winter to delineate and remove the fuel contamination. DEP also is expediting review of land use permits for other parts of the overall project, now that the county had to shift renovations to field work in other areas not affected by the pollution.

Essex County began renovations at the Branch Brook Park in May 2004. DEP's Green Acres Program provided some of the funding for the improvements. The Branch Brook Park Alliance, North Ward Center, Boys & Girls Club and Roberto Clemente Little League each received $250,000 grants from the Green Acres program. In addition, the Essex County Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board approved $1 million in matching funds for the four grants. Another $1.7 million to fund the project came from the Multi-Parks Improvement Program that was funded with an $850,000 grant from Green Acres and $850,000 in matching funds from the Open Space Trust Fund.

If residents have questions or comments about the remedial work at Branch Brook Park, call DEP's community relations office at 800-253-5647.



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