By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Middletown and state Department of Environmental Protection officials are expected to meet in Senator Joe Kyrilos‘s office today to try and work out an agreement to rectify the township’s longstanding problems at Shadow Lake.
Overgrowth and contamination have built up that last couple years while local and state officials have danced between possible solutions. But with the new state administration, Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger says he’s hopeful that, with the help of Kyrillos, the two sides can agree on one of two possible solutions that have, in the past, caused a stalemate.
Over time, silt has washed into the lake, causing the shallow edges to fill with soil, “so the lake starts to shrink,” Scharfenberger said.
Additionally, algae and weeds have slowly taken over portions of the lake, while arsenic levels from chemical treatments have reached above allowable state levels, he said.
“That’s part of the problem” he said. “That’s when it becomes a contamination issue.”
Although dredging the lake is seen as the common solution, Middletown and the DEP have differed on what to do with the spoils, or dredged materials, from the lake. Middletown wants to truck the spoils to nearby Stevenson Park and bury them, at a cost of between $2 and $3 million, Scharfenberger said.
But because of the high arsenic levels, the DEP has, in the past, insisted the town truck the spoils to a farther location. If Middletown were to take the department’s suggestion, Scharfenberger said, “you can take that and triple it, easily, if we have to truck off-site.”
The department holds the power in this situation because it is the one that issues the dredging permit.
But since Governor Chris Christie took office, Scharfenberger thinks there may be a different outlook on a remediation plan, and today’s meeting is a sign that a compromise can be achieved.
“There was a time when we couldn’t get the DEP on the phone,” he said, “so that’s progress.”
Officials will go back to the drawing board today to see if an outline for action can be agreed upon.
“We’re going to discuss the whole project. Hopefully we can come out with an agreement on how we can proceed on this,” Scharfenberger said. “They are the gatekeepers at this point. They can give us the permit to do it or deny it.
“I’m as interested as everybody else to see what’s going to happen.”