Life in New Jersey is a feast of the senses. However, one sense that gets a bit of overtime when living here is the sense of smell. Over time, in fact, many of us become noseblind to the lingering musk of our beloved Garden State.
That said, when an odor presents itself so prominently that it actually makes residents complain, you know it’s pretty bad…
Over the past few years, development in and around the property at 800 Monroe Street in Hoboken has managed to churn up a choking odor, prompting nearby residents and Hoboken media sites to make a stink of their own about it.
Our friends at HobokenGirl have been sounding the alarm on the issue for awhile. Their most recent update on January 5 features an extensive account of exchanges between their team, the City of Hoboken, and Potomac-Hudson Engineering—a firm tasked with remediating the site, which was once an industrial location.
According to the City of Hoboken, that project was originally slated for completion “by the end of 2018.” And yet, both the project and the odors continue to linger in the area. According to HobokenGirl, Potomac-Hudson Engineering says that, ““The current owner of the property is remediating groundwater contamination that was caused by former industrial owners of the site and that has existed for many years prior to the new ownership. Active remediation on-site is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with a demobilization of the system to follow in early 2020.”
The site is located in the midst of numerous newly constructed residential complexes, as well as long-standing homes. It’s also one of the more flood-prone areas of Hoboken, situated on the western edge, at the base of the Palisades. Hoboken was once an island, and the area around 800 Monroe was marshland. According to one of HobokenGirl’s sources, solvents and acetone from industrial activity has co-mingled with that underlying marshland, requiring extensive remediation.
Nevertheless, the City of Hoboken and Potomac-Hudson Engineering maintain that the area is in fact safe. While the remediation has required the application of heat to remove the undesired compounds, the City of Hoboken has said, “It is important to emphasize that the odor is not hazardous and poses no danger to public health and safety.” According to that same public statement from October 1, 2018, “the City of Hoboken Fire Department, Board of Health, Hudson Regional Health Commission, and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) have all tested the air and found all levels to be within the acceptable range.”
But as Hoboken Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo told hMAG in a conversation yesterday, “Everything is safe—but it still stinks.” Russo maintains that he’s been monitoring the situation and agrees with the conclusion of nearby residents. “We’ve been dealing with it for an extended period of time. Just because it’s within the acceptable range, that doesn’t mean it’s ok. There’s a real disconnect there—it’s not just a safety issue, it’s a quality of life issue.”
Prior to that conversation, hMAG went down to the site, where we saw a man walking down the middle of 8th Street into oncoming traffic. “Well I can’t walk over there,” he said, pointing to a large puddle outside the Monroe Center. “That’s human waste,” he casually claims.
Common knowledge to those who routinely pass through that area, there have been reports of sewage and waste management issues in the vicinity of those buildings for extended periods of time. At one point, there was PVC piping transporting waste directly into a drain on the corner of 8th & Monroe.
In September of 2019, hMAG had made several attempts to speak with developers of properties adjacent to 800 Monroe regarding the environmental and infrastructural impact of so many new residents in that area of town. Those organizations declined to comment.
As development continues in the northwestern corner of Hoboken, so too shall the issues of remediation. The Northwest Resiliency Park, set to become Hoboken’s largest park at 5 acres, will occupy land that had maintained industrial operations until 2005. Upon testing the property, results indicated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) “between not detected and 420 parts per million (ppm),” rendering it unsafe for residential development.
Former owner BASF remediated the soil to 25 ppm, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) criteria for “low occupancy” use. By their definition, low occupancy is an area where individuals spend less than an average of 6.7 hours per week. Both the USEPA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) approved BASF’s remediation plan, which was completed in November of 2016. The entire lot was then encapsulated with 6‐inch asphalt cap.
That cap is now being removed, for the installation of below-ground rainwater mitigation infrastructure, with a recreational park installed above.
As for 800 Monroe, HobokenGirl reports that the area is currently being treated with a neutralizer, to help with the odor. Meanwhile, residents are encouraged to contact the appropriate authorities should they encounter the strong, noxious odor.
They have instructed residents that each time the smell is reported, however, they treat it as a separate incident so the more residents call, the more attention will be in this area. So if you’re concerned, make sure to reach out — and continue to ask questions.
You can also Hudson Regional Health Commission (HRHC) at 201-223-1133.
To reach the local government’s health and environmental department, call 201-420-2000, extension 5205.
You can also reach Caroline Caufield of the Office of Constituent Affairs at (201) 420-2000 ext. 1311.
For more on this topic, we invite readers to check out the full report on HobokenGirl.com.