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Nov, 19-2009 11:41 am

Petersburg couple demands state remediate high groundwater salt content

By CLAIRE LOWE
Staff Writer

PETERSBURG—Following a routine groundwater sampling by the New Jersey Department of Transportation along Tuckahoe Road in Petersburg, where a DOT Maintenance Facility sits, George and Catherine Turner received a letter reporting levels of chloroform, MTBE, total and dissolved lead, sodium and chloride below “relevant ground water quality standards and drinking water standards” and sodium above those relevant standards. This was Oct. 2.

The test, which was conducted on July 23, was initiated as part of a state program to ensure public health and determine the extent and degree of groundwater contamination due to an underground gasoline tank removed from that area in 2000, according to Tim Greeley, spokesman for the NJDOT.

As a result of the test results, the Turners hired a Princeton attorney, Stuart Lieberman of Lieberman and Blecher, who concentrate in groundwater contamination cases.
Lieberman says that the Turners and some of their neighbors received similar letters around the same time. He says the biggest concern is the high levels of sodium in the water, which he believes is due to groundwater contamination from salt storage at the DOT facility.

Frusturated that little is being done to reduce the sodium levels in the Turner’s drinking water, Lieberman has filed an intent to sue with the state.
“My position is we didn’t sign up for having salt in our water and just because it might meet some arbitrary standard that the state sets doesn’t mean we have to put up with it,” Lieberman said.

“DOT isn’t hiding anything, there’s no deception going on, they’re just not doing what they have to do,” he added.

The DOT contends that they are following the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s guidelines. The sampling of the groundwater was initiated in 2002, Greeley said, with the residential sampling initiated in November 2006. The wells, he said, are being sampled quarter-annually.

“We have been following NJDEP's Site Remediation Technical Requirements for the gasoline issue, however, since sodium and chlorides, which are Secondary Standards, have not been exceeded, it has not been necessary for us to pursue determining sources (storage/handling, local roadway deicing, water softener backwash to septic systems, natural, etc.) and input levels,” Greeley said.

He added that the DOT no longer stores salt at that maintenance facility.

Lieberman said he hopes that the intent to sue will push the DOT into resolving the problem, which he said involves digging a deeper well for the Turners. He said that, so far, the response from the DOT has been “offensive.”

“They’re the state of New Jersey and they should care more than anybody about the people who live here,” Lieberman said.