Nestled in the southeast section of Bridgewater, and crossing into Bound Brook, is a 570-acre superfund site—and its owner, Pfizer, is moving forward with remediation and future plans to ensure it becomes a useful property for the residents and Raritan Valley community as a whole.
“There is a site wise feasibility study that Pfizer and its predecessors have been working on to take care of the property,” said Elaine Richardson, vice president of Vita Nuova, which is working with Pfizer on the project. “We are starting to educate the public on our plans, and there should be a public hearing after the first of the year.”
However, residents voiced displeasure Tuesday night why they haven't been able to hear details about all eight of the company's options.
The property, known as the American Cyanamid Superfund Site, was obtained by Pfizer when it took over Wyeth in 2009. At this point, the goals for the site are to implement remediation, ensure remediation activities can facilitate the use of the property, enhance its ecological aspects and position it as an asset to the community.
And about $200 million has already been invested in the site to investigate remediation options.
Only about 10 acres of the site are in Bound Brook, with the remaining acres in Bridgewater.
With remediation of the site already underway, about 140 of the total 570 acres of the site have already been redeveloped because no further action was needed after remediation of those pieces was completed in 1998—and it is now home to TD Bank Ballpark, the Van Horne House and the Bridgewater Promenade, among other properties.
And Russell Downey, director of Pfizer’s Global Engineering Special Projects, said there is a portion of the property near the Bridgewater train station that Pfizer hopes will see similar results.
“We would be long term custodians of the land,” he said. “But we would work with a developer on the land at the train station. We would be the landlords.”
The property expected to be developed at some point comprises about 30 acres of land near the train station.
“But some visions could change,” Downey said. “We recognize the last thing we want is more runoff to parking lots.”
“And the remedy will take about five to 10 years,” he added.
Richardson said that land near the train station will also have to be raised higher than it currently is because of flood concerns.
But first is the remediation to clean the site itself.
Between 1915 and 1999, prior owners of the site manufactured pharmaceuticals and other chemicals on the land, and management of the waste was dealt with in the manner required at that time, including onsite management, treatment, storage and disposal. In addition, 27 surface impoundments were constructed for storage of waste and other uses.
The site also contains a groundwater extraction well system, which controls the migration of groundwater through continuous pumping. The groundwater is pumped to a landfill site on Polhemus Lane, which will be closed down once the remediation is complete.
That site on Polhemus Lane is being eyed for possible alternative energy generation once the landfill is closed, as no buildings can be constructed on top of a former landfill, Downey said.
In addition, Pfizer has already entered into an agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency—which originally deemed the land a superfund site in 1983—for fast tracking the remediation process along a portion of the Raritan River near Cuckold’s Brook. A groundwater remediation system is planned for that site, and it was designed because of impacted groundwater found seeping into the Raritan River.
The groundwater collected will be sent to another location for treatment, and the work is expected to be done in April.
In 2004, a sitewide feasibility study was approved to address most of the property, except two impoundments, which present different challenges. Located near the part of the property that has been fast tracked for remediation, these two spots have been found to have high levels of organic compounds in the groundwater, Downey said.
“That is about four acres combined,” he said. “There are greater impacts there.”
A study will be done separately from what is being developed for the rest of the more than 400 acres, Downey said.
Currently, Pfizer has submitted several plans to the EPA, which are being reviewed, while information is being given to the public about the options available. As in the open sessions held Tuesday at the municipal complex in Bridgewater, and in Bound Brook, options are being presented to residents and officials for information gathering purposes.
In the new year, possibly as early as January Downey said, the EPA will be holding public hearings to get comments from residents about the plans and possibilities for future development on the property.
“We think the latter half of 2012 is when we will be told which plan to use by the EPA,” Downey said. “And we are coming up with plans for impoundments 1 and 2, and I think we will have a plan by the end of 2012.”
“We want to move forward and get things done,” Richardson added.
A video on the remediation and plans for the future have been shown to the EPA, as well as groups and officials in Bridgewater and Bound Brook.
At this point, Pfizer has narrowed down the possible remediation options to one it believes the EPA will approve because of its many benefits, and the fact that it will not cause any harm to human or environmental health.
The plan, if approved, will cost $155 million for design and construction, and a total of $205 million once completed with the inclusion of maintenance and monitoring.
The costs of remediation to Impoundments 1 and 2 are not included in that figure.
Among the plans included in this proposal are treating the waste materials and construction of low permeability covers to prevent future contact with materials; construction of protective barrier covers over other portions of the site for safe use, preservation of wetland ecological habitats; and long term operation and monitoring of the land.
Once the remediation is completed, aside from possible commercial development near the rail station, Pfizer is hoping to take about 190 acres in the center of the property for stormwater management for reducing flow into the Raritan River during floods, and upland meadows could be created for active recreational uses. Here, Pfizer representatives have discussed the possibility of an interpretive trail network to allow residents to study the area.
In addition, much of the site could be preserved as an ecological preserve. Visions have it being used for open space, with a possible Raritan River Greenway constructed to connect Bridgewater and Bound Brook.
But at this point, Pfizer is hoping to share the information with residents before the EPA brings the final plans out for public comment early next year with a plan for beginning the remediation some time in 2012.
“The EPA will write the plan, and then have public comments, so maybe we’ll have to rethink it,” Downey said. “When we look at other scenarios, there is so much with managing workers and everything.”
“We have to look at the impacts to the community,” he added.