Asbestos removal paves way for recreation complex

Under the oversight of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, a developer has completed the removal of 42,000 tons of asbestos-contaminated soils from industrial properties in Berkeley Heights, clearing the way for development of a new recreation complex for the community.

"The DEP was instrumental in focusing the developer and local officials on cleanup strategies for this site, thereby facilitating the complete removal of contaminated materials," Commissioner Lisa Jackson said. "As a result, local residents will benefit by getting a first-rate community center on land that had been unproductive."

Site developer Robbinsbrook LLC recently completed the $6.5 million project, removing soil contaminated with asbestos and petroleum hydrocarbons from the former Shaw Plastics and Barry Fuel properties. The materials were disposed in out-of-state landfills. Using DEP guidelines, the developer also determined that about half the materials from demolished buildings were contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons and required landfill disposal.

Until 1952, American Asbestos operated a plant at the site of what would become Shaw Plastics. It is believed that American Asbestos used asbestos to fill in low-lying areas. In addition, numerous spills occurred at the site of Barry Fuel, a petroleum products distributor.

As a result of the completion of the cleanup, the DEP has issued a “no further action determination,” certifying that the site meets the department's unrestricted use criteria. Berkeley Heights and Union County plan to develop the 18-acre property with sports fields, a community center, and a park.