PRINCETON: Oil found at former hospital site

PRINCETON: Oil found at former hospital site

Source:, May 29, 2014
By: Philip Sean Curran

Test results were expected back by today, May 30, to determine the level and the extent of soil contamination at the old Princeton hospital site on Witherspoon Street after a discharge of suspected petroleum was found last week.

The town said this week the discharge was discovered May 22 when two 6,000-gallon underground heating oil tanks were being removed. The substance was believed to be a thick, molasses-like heating oil, said municipal engineer Robert V. Kiser by phone Thursday.

Because of its thickness, the substance does not travel far, he said. Officials, however, won’t know how far it spread until results come back.

Soil samples from the area — located close to the old emergency room entrance between the hospital and the parking garage — were collected by Ecol Sciences, the environmental consultant for developer AvalonBay. If the soil has petroleum above accepted levels, Mr. Kiser said it would have to removed and disposed of at a state approved facility.

The state Department of Environmental Protection was notified, according to the town. In the meantime, plastic sheeting is covering the soil piles to prevent any runoff.

The discharge is believed to be decades old, since it came from a tank that was decommissioned and not used for a long time, Mayor Liz Lempert said Thursday. When a tank is decommissioned, it is filled with sand. Mr. Kiser said that based on information from Ecol Sciences, the tanks were reported to have been abandoned in the 1960s. New tanks were installed in 1964, he said.

AvalonBay, the company that wants to turn the site into a 280-unit residential development, .

AvalonBay has Princeton Planning Board approval for the project, but the developer is suing the town because the municipality has mandated that it perform additional environmental testing. AvalonBay cannot demolish the old hospital until it reaches a developer’s agreement with the town; one of the conditions of that agreement was the extra testing.

The town has scheduled a neighborhood meeting for Monday at 7 p.m. in the Witherspoon Hall municipal building to go over the work taking place at the site. Municipal staff, Mayor Lempert and Mr. Whitman plan to attend.

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