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Major Breakthrough in a 10-month Investigation in Toll Brothers Alleged Sludge Pumping into Local Brooks from the Apple Ridge Development in Mahwah

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photo by Derek Michalski , Pictured: Chairman of Mahwah Environmental Commission Richard Wolf documenting ongoing pollution at Toll Brothers construction site in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River.

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Upper Saddle River NJ, Major breakthrough in a 10-month community investigation started back in January 2018 by GreenUSR activist and resident of Upper Saddle River Derek Michalski.

Ramsey, Mahwah, Upper and Saddle River. Over the weekend residents from Ramsay, Mahwah and Upper Saddle River met for the second weekend in a row on the property that was featured in April 23, 2018 CBS New York Evening News coverage. We all remember Channel 2 Lisa Rozner’s report from 5 months ago about those infamous hoses pumping mud into Upper Saddle River stream directly from 100 acre site that had arsenic in the past.* Since that day very little has been done to stop the mud pumping that is occurring now 24/7 according to eyewitnesses. Last weekend the site was visited by Richard Wolf, Chairman of Mahwah Environmental Commission. This weekend Councilwoman Janet Ariemma took initiative and also met with residents and visually inspected continuous mud discharge into the Pleasant Brook.

According to Derek Michalski both EPA and NJDEP are currently monitoring the situation but now 10 months later it will be more difficult and extremely expensive to assess what amount of arsenic in the body of water was a result of natural occurrence and what level of increase (if any) was caused by non stop 10 month mud pumping. Every millimeter of sediment that wasn’t there 10 months needs to be dredged now from Pleasant Brook, tested and if necessary remediated to the acceptable level. If 10 months ago officials of Mahwah and Upper Saddle River took my warnings and acted then we would be in much better situations that we are now – said Michalski.

Also potential contamination of drinking water along the corridor of Pleasant Brook will be the next chapter of this unprecedented environmental disaster after Pleasant Brook testing is done according to Michalski.

Sierra Club, GreenUSR and Michalski are in the process of discussing what the next step should be in light of the following NJDEP statistics; between 1996 and 1998, samples were taken from 11 locations in Upper Saddle River. Arsenic was detected in all the samples (463) in the data set at concentrations ranging from 1.4 ppm to 310 ppm. Arsenic was detected above the Department’s residential soil cleanup criteria more frequently than any other analyte. Arsenic was detected above the cleanup criteria in 38% of the samples. In contrast, lead concentrations, which ranged from non-detect to 924 ppm, was detected above the cleanup criteria in only 1% of the samples.

It’s worth noting that according to North Jersey Sierra Club Chapter Chair Mary Walsh the NJDEP is not authorized to require remediation of naturally-occurring conditions in the environment. (See N.J.S.A. 58:10B-35g(4)). However, it is important to determine during the remedial investigation and the remedial action at a site, whether elevated levels of arsenic are the result of a discharge or whether they reflect natural background conditions.

Based on a Department survey of background concentrations of metals in soil in rural and suburban areas of the state, non-agricultural soils contained 0.02 – 22.7 ppm of arsenic with an average 3.25 ppm and less than 1.2- 150 ppm of lead with an average of 19.2 ppm (Fields, et al., 1993). A statistical test was conducted to determine the correlation between sand, silt and clay content of the samples and metal concentrations. Samples containing higher clay content tended to have higher concentrations of most metals, including arsenic and lead (Fields, et al., 1993).
While naturally-occurring lead concentrations have not been detected above the Department’s residential soil cleanup criteria in New Jersey, elevated arsenic concentrations have been found. Higher concentrations of naturally-occurring arsenic have been specifically associated with soils containing glauconite. The US Geological Survey found arsenic concentrations generally lower than 10 ppm in sandy soils from undeveloped areas, but concentrations were as large as 40 ppm in samples containing higher clay content (Barringer, et al., 1998). Soil sampling conducted as part of site remediation activities have shown glauconite soils to commonly contain arsenic concentrations of 20-40 ppm and range as high as 260 ppm (Schick, Personal comm., 1998). The Department is currently involved in a research project with the New Jersey Geological Survey investigating metal levels in glauconite soils.

Thus determination how much more arsenic Toll Brothers potentially pumped into local brooks, ponds and Saddle River over the course of past 10 months will determine what course of actions should be taken. After speaking to numerous NJDEP employees, several EPA investigators and four FBI special agents I am certain that we will not have to wait a decade like residents of Edgewater had to wait in the case of Quanta Superfund Remediation Site locates at 115 River Road, Edgewater, NJ 07020. Quanta site is only a 5.5 acre site. Our arsenic & lead environmental frontier expends between three towns and covers over 100 plus acres of construction desert reminds Michalski.

Also it is worth noting says Michalski that upcoming election put some pressure on local politicians and the new candidates for M&C positions. Case is point says Michalski – Mahwah Environmental Committee in conjunction with the Mayor and the entire Mahwah Town Council fired a demand letter addressed to persons responsible for the Toll Brothers’ site remediation to provide them with new testing of sediment, sludge and mud that is being released currently into Pleasant Brook. Can you believe that allegedly 700 tests of the soil were conducted on the site and not even one test of soil/sediment from the brook was presented to us – points out Michalski.

* link to CBS program:

4 thoughts on “Major Breakthrough in a 10-month Investigation in Toll Brothers Alleged Sludge Pumping into Local Brooks from the Apple Ridge Development in Mahwah

  1. In Saddle River we are being affected by this environmental disaster as well. Our tributaries, river and ponds are filling with this contaminated Mud Water being discharged into the Pleasant Ave Brook and contaminating the Saddle River at 270 W Saddle River Road in Upper Saddle River. that exact location is where the Pleasant Ave brook dumps into the Saddle River. The animals that make their home in Tricker Pond located in Saddle River need fresh clean water. The water is grey, the fish can’t breath they have gone to deep water. We have not seen a Heron in days and the Swan looks at me like WTF is going on. They are highly intelligent creatures and know this is wrong. Our Mayor is more concerned with flowers and brick pathways then our Water and Wells being poisoned by Toll Brothers.

  2. Sounds terrible. Sympathies.

  3. So, you don’t have base line data. That’s what I learned from this 918 word rant.

  4. all test costs should be covered by Toll B the owner, however, the third party testing agency should be handled, directed and paid by the township and reimbursed by Toll to avoid any conflict.

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