Landfill cleanup clears way for Salvation Army community center in New Jersey

A municipal landfill that has been out of operation and neglected for more than 35 years is being cleaned up by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This set the stage for construction of a multimillion-dollar Salvation Army community center that marks a significant step forward in the city’s renewal, DEP commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced.

Working with the Camden Redevelopment Agency and the city, the DEP is using its Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund and its Publicly Funded Remediation Program to pay for the nearly $14 million investigation and remediation of significant portions of the 85-acre landfill, located along the Delaware River in the city’s Cramer Hill section.

The estate of philanthropist Joan Kroc, wife of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, has provided the Camden Chapter of the Salvation Army with a $54 million grant to build and operate the 132,000 square foot community center, which will house a family service center, an arts center, a recreation center, and a child care center. At the heart of the facility will be a large, atrium-style town plaza.

The center, to be named for Ray and Joan Kroc, will have a host of amenities, including a gymnasium, library, health center, aquatics center, outdoor banquet terrace, and outdoor sunbathing/water spray area. The building will be complemented with outdoor athletic facilities that will include soccer and baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts and concession stands.

The DEP ordered the city to stop using the landfill in 1971 due to lack of environmental controls. Because of financial constraints, the city has never been able to properly close the landfill.

The site contains primarily household refuse and construction debris, although a DEP investigation found a pocket of chemical waste in the landfill’s southern end.

The redevelopment project encompasses approximately 23 acres at the northernmost end of the landfill site. Remediation at this end of the landfill will include removing all waste beneath what will be the community center’s footprint and capping of an adjacent area that will become athletic fields and the main parking area.

Remediation in the southern end, will involve removal of 14,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with chemical waste that is buried under the municipal solid waste.

The DEP has built an access road and has begun clearing this area. This aspect of the project, costing $4 million, is being paid for by DEP’s Publicly Funded Remediation Program, which is funded by the Corporate Business Tax.

The DEP is providing nearly $10 million in grants from its Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund to the Camden Redevelopment Agency for overall landfill investigations and remedial activities associated with Kroc Center development area.

The DEP will be developing a remediation plan for the remainder of the landfill that does not fall within the community center project boundaries. The Kroc Center development and future landfill remediation will allow for a mile-long public greenway along the river and creation of a wooded buffer as habitat for bald eagles in the area.