A proposal to build a soil recycling facility to foster redevelopment of a former industrial site along the Rahway River in Carteret has won the initial backing of Middlesex County officials, after a public hearing in which almost every statement was disputed.
The county Solid Waste Advisory Council's endorsement of the Rahway Arch project is only advisory, though members could not recall an instance where the Middlesex Freeholders rejected one of their recommendations. For that reason, supporters and opponents argued the matter intensely, contradicting each other in detail.
For the developer and Soil Safe of Columbia, MD, which would operate the recycling facility for an estimated five years, the project would rectify past environmental problems, allowing the development of 20 to 25 acres while preserving about 100 or more as a wildlife area along the river.
For opponents such as the Edison Wetlands Association and the Construction Materials Recycling Association, the plan would re-open an already cleaned up site for an unnecessary industrial facility with little oversight.
With state Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), the attorney for the applicant, watching from a front-row seat, the outcome was never in doubt. The members present voted 18-0, with five abstentions, to send the proposal on to the Freeholders for inclusion in the county's solid waste master plan.
Afterward, though, supporters acknowledge they still have a ways to go to bring the project to fruition. Bill Roberts, Soil Safe's Mid-Atlantic program director, estimated it will take a year to continue through the county and state permit process to construction.
That's not least because the application takes the position that the state Department of Environmental Protection erred in 2002, when it issued a notice that no further action was required to remediate the so-called Cytec property, named after an American Cyanamid subsidy that used it for sludge disposal.
"I have no idea how they got an NFA finding," said Al Free of EastStar Environmental Group, Rahway Arch's consultants. The DEP "didn't follow their own regulations" and left surface materials standing lagoons that could be washed into the river in a storm, he said.
"It's full of alum, it's a contaminated property," said Carteret representative Michael Sica, who grew up near the site and used to play their despite his parents' admonitions. There are also no workable alternatives for the site, "Carteret's largest unutilized industrial tract," he said.
"These guys aren't the ones who polluted the site," Smith said of his clients. Instead, they are offering the chance to "finally get one of the most contaminated sites in the state of New Jersey fully cleaned up," he said.