I’m writing to you regarding significant environmental liability costs associated with the proposed improvements to the playing field at Rahway River Park.

The point of this email is not about whether or not one group will benefit more than another in the use of the proposed stadium, the historic nature of the park, or the immediate impacts to the natural environment.  I'd like to address long term environmental liability.  

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The proposed field is synthetic, and it is anticipated that the location will be at the existing field and running track.  This location is at a high point in the park, and in its current, natural state, this location manages to deal with storm water via infiltration.  This central portion of the park drains from this high point, in part overland to the northeast, both over and under the road to a drainage system that runs back under the road near the entrance from St Georges Avenue, into the retention basin (lake) parallel to the Rahway River.  This lake drains into the River depending on the surface elevation of the water in the lake.  Basically, anything that is in contact with overland storm water runoff will probably be transported with that runoff, depending on size.  

So where’s the environmental liability?  First, please note that it is not my intent to diminish or slander the quality or makeup of this type of field overall; rather my goal is to present the probable impact of this type of material used in this fashion at this location.  Without knowing the particular brand proposed, I am defaulting to the standard list of constituent materials that make up these fields, which are available as part of the public domain.  The infill, with some variety between manufacturers, is usually comprised of crumb rubber sourced from materials such as recycled tires.  The surface, designed to mimic grass in appearance, is usually made up of polyethylene. http://www.njwec.org/PDF/Factsheets/fact-artificialterf.pdf

While these materials have been extensively researched by both industry and consumer health groups in relation to their effects on the players, little concern has been given to the larger exposure areas which are usually impacted by runoff.  Both NJDEP and USEPA have regulations in place for surface water and sediment concentrations of contaminants such as those found in the runoff stemming from these industrial and recycled products.  Further, allowable or acceptable concentrations under current USEPA and NJDEP regulations are extremely low and the investigation and cleanup costs are usually high to “prove the negative”.  By that I mean, either the alleged polluter has determined the full nature and extent of the contamination or that the alleged polluter has proven that the fault and liability lies with someone else.

Now, before you disregard the above, I would like note that a significant amount of money was paid by over two hundred defendants to settle liability regarding the contamination of the Passaic River rather than try to “prove the negative”:

"Most of the 258 defendants included in the proposed consent judgment will pay $95,000 to settle their portion of the suit, while others will pay more — up to $395,000, according to court". filings  http://www.law360.com/articles/439337/nj-floats-35m-deal-in-passaic-river-cleanup-suit

We all live in Union County.  So does Exxon’s liability at the mouth of the Rahway River.  Should every municipality in the County share the burden of rushed planning and thereby provide a direct source for liability should Exxon gaze upstream to slow down pending cleanup or reduce their own costs?  Let’s not go through the Passaic River fiasco again.  Please consider the facts in light of long term and costly litigation and liability.  We can find a better way to meet the needs of the County today without unduly burdening the current and future residents.

Thank you,

Rob Bothe

The Coalition to Save Rahway River Park