BERKELEY – What’s buried around the old Beachwood Mall site? It’s a question that’s been asked for more than a decade. Answers could come between six to 12 months, officials said.
Berkeley Township received a $712,380 state grant that would pay for remediation studies for two phases of work: the environmental cleanup of the area where the mall building sat, and the area behind it, which is former South Brunswick Asphalt Plant.
Dating from previous administrations, officials have guessed what was buried there in the asphalt operation, and the cost to remove it. Held up by its private ownership and litigation, the township was able to reach a deal between the owner, redeveloper and township to demolish the rotting, abandoned Route 9 mall starting in 2015. Demolition continued through 2016.
The grant enables the next phase: how to proceed with environmental cleanup, said Mayor Carmen Amato.
“The funding will be utilized to investigate the areas of concern,” Amato said. The biggest concern is the back of the property. “We are very pleased to get this funding so that we can finally get a handle on what is actually buried back there.”
The township’s firm, T&M Associates, will proceed with the investigation.
“We have an idea that the front is pretty much clean, where the old building was,” said the mayor. “But this will give us an idea for how bad the back part of the property is.”
The first phase, for the front, should be over pretty quickly, Amato said. The bulk of the six to 12 months will be spent on the back.
“This will determine what, if anything, needs to be done,” said the mayor. The cost of cleanup itself is borne through an agreement between the township and the redeveloper, Berkeley Redevelopers LLC, who also oversaw the demolition.
The grant is through the state’s Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund. Last August, the township announced it was seeking about $800,000 through the grant program.
“This funding will enable the Township to get a full and complete picture of what is on the site, which will assist the redeveloper in remediation.” Mayor Amato said.
Officials have said previously the amount of remediation needed there is unknown, and with it an unknown cost.
Depending on what’s found, and concerning the cleanup expected on the rear of the property, the township and redeveloper would seek more funding to pay for the remediation. At some point in the long history of public debate of the property, estimates on cleanup varied, as high as several million dollars.
“Additional funding for the Site Remediation may be available for certain portions of the site, and the township is vigorously pursue this funding,” Amato said previously.
As to what could be built there – those steps are even further off, officials said. Last estimates had the environmental cleanup ongoing through at least 2018, contingent on what is found there.
The township has a master plan for the entire corridor approved through the state, but would need to have several public meetings to approve specific plans, as well as seek approvals from the state Department of Transportation from the state road impact of Route 9.