By JOHN T. WARD
Three weeks after Red Bank shut down its sole community garden in response to a report of elevated lead in the soil, testing shows lead below levels considered unsafe, the borough said in an announcement Tuesday.
“While lead was detected at various concentrations in the soil samples, none of the results indicate any lead contamination above New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection standards in the top two feet of soil, and no immediate response is needed by the NJDEP for the soil,” said the announcement, posted on the borough website.
The announcement contained a link to a four-page report by CME Associates, the borough’s consulting engineer, which details the results of 17 core samples taken at the Marion Street facility.
CME’s test found one sample, taken from near the street end of the property, that contained lead at a concentration above a remediation standard used by the NJDEP, Turan’s report said. That reading, however, came from a depth of more than two feet below the ground surface.
Borough Business Administrator Ziad Shehady declined to characterize the findings Tuesday afternoon. He provided to redbankgreen an email sent to him and other borough officials last Friday by Ed Putnam, of the DEP’s division of remediation management. It read:
For short term exposure the Department is concerned with the top two feet of soil. In reviewing the data provided, the only sample above the DEP’s standard of 400 mg/kg is CGS-1C at 597 mg/kg and that sample was taken at 2.0 to 2.5 feet below grade. Therefore, none of the results indicate any lead contamination above standards in the top two feet of soil, and no immediate response is needed for the soil.
The DEP does not have any standards or guidance related to lead levels in vegetables, so I cannot comment on those results.
Regarding produce samples taken from the garden, the report, authored by CME’s Behram Turan, said “it appears the lead identified in soils has not been taken up by the vegetables growing at the site.”
Shehady said additional testing would be conducted to further isolate the location and possible source of the lead, with a possible remediation plan to follow.
In the meantime, the garden is now closed for the season, and the borough will refund the $25 seasonal fees paid by gardeners for their plots, he said. The season normally runs from mid-March through October.
According to Shehady, CME’s tests showed “a huge discrepancy” with results provided to the borough August 9 by Paulo Rodriguez-Heyman, who who lives across the street from the garden and is the founder and president of Renova Environmental Services, a site remediation firm based in Ocean Township.
Rodriguez-Heyman, who also serves as an alternate member of the borough’s Environmental Commission, did not respond last month to redbankgreen inquiries about why he tested the garden site, along with his own property, for lead.
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Rodriguez-Heyman’s report to the borough triggered an immediate shutdown of the plots just as gardeners were preparing to harvest the last of their tomatoes, kale and other vegetables. The decision to close was made out of “an abundance of caution,” Shehady said at the time. Plot tenders were told not to harvest what they’d grown and to discard any produce already harvested.
Those who’d already consumed produce from the plots were advised in an announcement, also posted on the borough website, to “consult with their physician about the potential for lead exposure from produce and inquire about the necessity of a blood lead test.”
The garden, on a borough-owned plot of land between two homes, debuted in 2013 after a long campaign by activist Cindy Burnham.
The site, two lots west of Eastside Park, is the location of a disused water pumping station enclosed in a shed that the town has used to store materials used in cleanups of oil and other spills, redbankgreen reported in 2012.