WEST DEPTFORD, NJ (CBS) – As the EPA continues removal of toxic battery debris from a West Deptford neighborhood, the township is bracing for lawsuits and soil testing at a nearby school.
West Deptford Township officials have received several tort claim notices from groups of residents suing over lead-contaminated car battery debris dumped on Birchly Court before construction of the Woodlane Drive neighborhood in the late 1980’s.
“I think the township failed,” says Wayne Hoffman who had a portion of his yard removed for lead and battery contamination and has joined a lawsuit against the township.
“They didn’t inspect it, or they covered up the inspection. They wouldn’t have built here. If you can go down 2 feet and find this stuff,” says Hoffman.
During a conference call with Eyewitness News, West Deptford solicitor Tim Scaffidi and Township administrator Deborah Turner-Fox said initial reviews of construction documents from the time period did not report battery debris or other unusual substances in the ground at Birchly Court.
They have begun notifying previous insurers for the township that lawsuits are on the way.
6 weeks of EPA soil removal shows gas, water and electric utilities ran through a 4-5 foot thick underground pile of battery waste in front of 35 Birchly Court.
EPA has removed about 1,700 tons of crushed car batteries they believe may have come decades ago from a recycling center down the road.
The EPA and West Deptford School Board of Education are also working together on a plan to test soil at West Deptford High School starting in November.
EPA site coordinator David Rosoff doesn’t believe there will be crushed car batteries or lead in the soil because the high school wasn’t built on property from the same land owner as Birchly Court.
He says the testing is out of an abundance of caution because of the high school’s location between the contaminated neighborhood and the Matteo & Sons Inc Superfund Site on Crown Point Road.
“The school property is directly between the Birchly Court site and the main Matteo recycling site, and that’s created some concern for them,” says Rosoff.
Acting superintendent William Thompson says the school district is working on a factsheet for parents about the soil testing and making sure any EPA staff or contractor on school property goes through a background check.