July 10, 2019

Order Blocks Council From Canceling Contract

By Anne Levin

A temporary restraining order issued Monday by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson prevented Princeton Council from passing a resolution that would have ended its agreement with a sewer repair company for work on Spruce Street and Linden Lane.

At its meeting Monday evening, July 8, the governing body put aside the resolution that would have terminated its contract with Integrated Construction and Utilities of New Jersey (ICUNJ). The company is connected to an investigation into alleged illegal dumping at the River Road sewer department facility. ICUNJ, which does sewer repair, demolition, and asbestos abatement, has done work for Princeton for over a decade.

After it was revealed last month that a container filled with asbestos materials was at the River Road facility, the municipality informed ICUNJ that its contract would be canceled. The company responded by filing a lawsuit against the town, saying it was simply following directions from Princeton officials in disposing of materials at the site, and therefore should not be punished.

Three municipal employees have been terminated as a result of the illegal
dumping scandal. One has been charged with second degree bribery for allegedly accepting payment in exchange for letting contractors dump dirt and other materials at the municipal site.

Council did pass a resolution at Monday’s meeting authorizing the hiring of Whitman Environmental Consulting for an environmental assessment of the sewer site, for a fee of up to $163,375. Municipal Administrator Mark Dashield said that after the New Jersey Department of
Environmental Protection issued a violation notice to the town last month for operating an illegal solid waste facility at the River Road site, the town had five to ten days to hire a licensed state remediation professional to test for contamination.

“We hired Whitman because we’ve had good experience with them,” he said, referring to work the company did on the AvalonBay rental complex site in 2016. “We did reach out to another firm, but with

the timing, we needed to have someone interface with the DEP.”

Whitman submitted a proposal last week, indicating the stockpile of soil, millings, asphalt, concrete, and brick on the property “has resulted in an extremely large pile of undocumented and [un]tested soil to be stockpiled around the property.”

The proposal goes on to say, “This current stockpile may be impacting wetlands (per NJDEP inspector comments) and possibly extend into Montgomery Township. In addition, there is a roll off on site with bagged asbestos pipe wrap that has been there for 2-7 years. The bags are punctured and the roll off has a number of holes in it, allowing collected water to run out  and potentially impact the surrounding soil. There is also evidence of diesel spills due to asphalt hot box clean.”

Whitman’s proposal says it will determine whether illegal dumping, deforestation, and the introduction of backfill to create roads, as well as other similar soil disturbances, have taken place in the area of the wetlands.

Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday afternoon that the town has filed an insurance claim to cover costs of Whitman’s work. Asked about the ongoing criminal investigation into the illegal dumping, Lempert said it is being handled by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office so she did not have an update.

“I don’t expect to hear a lot until we hear from the prosecutor’s office,” she said. “Our focus now is looking at the site and looking at the cleanup.”