The environmental issues present at the former Ford plant site should not prohibit the Crossroads developer from building a 600,000 square-foot shopping center there, according to Robert Crespi, the developer’s environmental expert. During his testimony Monday night at the in front of Mahwah’s planning board, Crespi said, “The current status of the soil and ground water should not interfere at all with the development of the site.”
Crespi gave an overview of his analysis of 20 documents relating to Ford’s clean up and decontamination of the Crossroads property. According to Crespi, Ford removed over 200 tons of contaminated soil from the site in the 1980s and is monitoring ground water contamination levels. As of its last reading in 2005, Ford reported what Crespi called an “extremely low” amount of contamination in some of the ground water at the site. Ford is scheduled to test the water again in coming months to see if the contamination has naturally dissipated, he said.
Since the 1980s, Ford has spent over $11 million on the clean up of the Crossroads, Crespi said. “They have done a substantial amount of work here.”
Crespi said he based his analysis on the documented amount of contamination left on the Crossroads land. "Of course, contamination could be found during the construction process, but that is a possibility at any site in the state." He said if contamination were to be found during construction, it would likely be by the contractor, and work would stop until the issue could be mediated or treated.
Crespi’s testimony came after that of civil engineer Michael Junghans, who commented on the drainage plan on the site. Junghans testified that although the development’s site plan calls for a significant paving and the addition of impervious services, the amount of storm water runoff from the land at the site to the Ramapo River would actually be less than what it is now.
Using drainage methods like bio-retention swales, detention basins, and ponds, Junghans said the developer plans to exceed the state requirements for reducing groundwater runoff. Junghans explained that because these methods "promote infiltration" of the stormwater, as opposed to it landing on top of a flat surface like it does now, "you are actually reducing your runoff into the Ramapo River and your potential flooding impact."
According to township engineer Mike Kelly, who reviewed Junghans’s analysis, the developer is proposing to “reduce the peak rate of runoff of what’s currently leaving the site,” by percentages higher than what’s required by the DEP. However, resident Rich Wolf pointed out that the calculation includes only land that is going to be developed. So, runoff from current structures and blacktop on the property, like at the , is not calculated in the state requirement.
Junghans also testified that the developer’s drainage plan will only work if the system is properly maintained, and the developer can be held liable for that. And, the engineer agreed to looking into ways that the collected water could be used as an irrigation tool, if possible.
Both board members and residents questioned the environmental and drainage analyses of the site. Crespi is set to continue his testimony at the next hearing, scheduled for July 9. Board Chair Todd Sherer said he expects the board to have “a lot of questions” on the environmental impact of the development.
Also at the meeting, Crossroads attorney Jim Jaworski said he should have meaningful data back from the Department of Transportation. “Hopefully, we should be able to give you their feedback on the outside the site,” he said.
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