UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. – State environmental authorities on Monday will investigate the pumping of muddy water into a stream from a luxury-housing construction site at the former Apple Ridge Country Club in northwest Bergen County, state Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi said.
UPDATE: Following the release of a video by a concerned citizen, pressure from a state assemblywoman and coverage from Daily Voice, Bergen County authorities have ordered builders to stop pumping muddy water into a nearby stream from a site slated for dozens of luxury homes in Upper Saddle River and Mahwah.
“I have requested soil sampling to ensure no arsenic or other carcinogens are entering the [stream],” Schepisi told residents of Mahwah and Upper Saddle River over the weekend. “I've also asked [the state] DEP to send a rep up, and they have put the matter in front of enforcement and soil conservation for immediate review.
"I have been working in conjunction with the [Upper Saddle River] mayor and council on this, as well as the borough engineer, and that they are all monitoring the situation closely with the State," the assemblywoman told Daily Voice.
“I have been assured that if something untoward is going on, the stop work order will be immediately issued,” she said.
Upper Saddle River resident Derek Michalski shot video on Friday showing a hose stretched from a running pump under a fence and directly into Pleasant Brook.
Michalski went to investigate after he noticed the brook turning brown.
Residents have been concerned about contamination ever since high levels of arsenic and lead were found on the more than 100-acre property straddling both towns, on which Toll Brothers plans to build 78 luxury homes.
The chemicals came from pesticides sprayed on the former apple orchard, as well as treatments to the golf course that succeeded it more than 50 years ago, state authorities said. The contamination runs as deep as two feet.
“They were supposed to remediate the soil,” resident Erik Friis said. “Rather than remove it, the state DEP allowed them to blend it with cleaner soil and keep it in place, basically diluting the levels of toxins.
“But that isn’t enough. Any runoff is going to carry those toxins.”
There’s been plenty of runoff, he said, mainly because 1,000 or so trees were cleared to make way for two-story Colonials – 44 in Upper Saddle River and 34 in Mahwah.
“Remediation was supposed to be done in phases,” said Friis, who administers the “Citizens for a Better Upper Saddle River” Facebook page. “They took something that I have been told should have taken well over a year to do correctly, but they rushed it and got it done in two or three months. No one has any confidence that it was done right.
“We all have well water here. Everyone is really concerned about arsenic and lead. It's a very scary thing.”
Toll Brothers couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Sunday.
Residents had expressed concern following storms – including when heavy winds at the turn of the year blew silt onto their homes and property.
“Back during the rainstorms in November and December, rivers of mud were flowing into the streets and into the storm drains, which go directly into the streams,” Friis said. “Now we have it being pumped directly into the stream.”
The pump has a tarp over it and “apparently has been in use for awhile,” he said, adding that a stop-work order should have been issued following its discovery.
“The NJ DEP told me in no uncertain terms that even water containing silt cannot go into storm drains, as they run into streams,” Friis said. “Even if they were pumping Poland Spring water into the brook, it would still be illegal.”
Schepisi urged patience.
“I have asked in the strongest way possible for all hands on deck to review the situation,” the assemblywoman said, adding that state authorities will meet at the site on Monday.
“If something illegal is taking place, appropriate action will occur,” Schepisi said.
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