Proposed Hotel Site Polluted
Though a remediation effort has been underway for years, the site of a former gas station is still contaminated.
The proposed site of a 76-room hotel at a former gas station alongside the Swimming River in Red Bank is polluted and is not expected to have ground water with allowable levels of contaminants until at least 2016, according to testimony from the developer’s environmental expert Dave Clark at Monday’s Planning Board Meeting.
Clark, a civil engineer, said remediation of the site, which is just over an acre in size, has been ongoing since the gas station went out of business in the early 2000’s. But the operation of a gas station on the site for 70 years has done its fair share of damage, and though the cleanup process has been consistent, there’s no way to rush this type of thing along.
RBank Capital LLC is looking to build a Hampton Inn and Suites on the small parcel of land at the base of Route 35 just prior to the bridge that enters Middletown across from the Visting Nurses Association. The developer is seeking more than 20 variances to fit the hotel on the small piece of land, but what’s not as simple as asking for a chance to a borough ordinance is asking that it overlook pollution.
Following a reported leak in an underground tank, some tanks were removed from the former Exxon gas station as early as 1990. In 1995 more tanks were removed and in 2005, after the gas station had been closed for years, the final underground tanks at the site were removed. Since then, steps have been taken by the gas giant to eliminate the contamination, including the introduction of tiny pollution-eating bacteria, among other methods.
Though contaminate concentration levels have decreased significantly, “there are still pollutants there,” Clark said.
The pollution onsite has been a major factor thus far for those who object to the plan, including Red Bank resident Stephen Mitchell, who is suing to prevent the hotel project coming to fruition. According to a warranty deed developed by Exxon and attached to the land’s sale, there are several uses that have been prohibited at the site for a term of no less than 50 years. Among the restrictions are residential use, elderly care, and recreational or playground facilities.
Though the hotel doesn’t fall under residential use laws, one Red Bank resident did point out during the public question portion of Clark’s testimony that there will be long-term occupants of the hotel, namely its staff.
Kathleen Gasienica said it’s important to note that the pollution at the site contains chemicals that are harmful to a number of people. Before the board moves forward, Gasienica said it’s important to understand that the contamination could pose serious health risks for those under 25, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses, among others.
Clark declined to comment on the health risks of chemicals related to underground pollution caused by gas stations, despite being sworn in as an environmental expert, instead saying vapor control systems can be installed to attenuate the pollution problem and that by 2016, if remediation is kept on schedule, the point should be a moot one anyway.