Retail building gains planners’ approval in Millstone Township

By Matthew Sockol
Staff Writer

MILLSTONE – A developer’s plan to replace a vacant gas station with a retail building have been approved by the Millstone Township Planning Board.

On Sept. 14, board members granted preliminary and final site plan approval for a 14,443-square-foot mixed use retail building that will be built on a 2.2-acre property at the corner of Route 537 (Monmouth Road) and Route 526. The new building will replace a vacant gas station on the property.

Avinash Vashisht, the property’s owner, made his second appearance before the board to request approval for the building’s construction, following an appearance on Aug. 10. Attorney Stuart Lieberman presented the application.

The property was formerly owned by Exxon. In 1988, while the tract was an Exxon gas station, an underground storage tank burst open and flooded the soil and ground water.

The 1988 leak remains an active area of concern at the site and is overseen by engineering company Kleinfelder on behalf of Exxon.

At the Sept. 14 meeting, Richard Jasaitis, a licensed site remediation professional (LSRP) and a senior project manager at Kleinfelder, spoke about the cleanup being performed on the area of the 1988 leak.

According to Jasaitis, a pump-and-treat system was installed on the property in the early 1990s. The system pumps ground water to the surface and removes it of contaminants. A soil vapor extraction system, which removes contamination from dry soil, was also installed to treat the property.

The active remediation at the site ran for about 12 years, according to Jasaitis. During that time approximately 27 million gallons of water were taken out of the ground, treated and discharged, and 550 pounds of volatile gasoline components were taken out of the soil.

“(Exxon) ran the treatment systems for about a dozen years and at that point, the concentrations had declined to the point where it was no longer technically feasible to continue,” Jasaitis said. “The next remedial action was to allow natural attenuation to occur.”

According to Jasaitis, natural attenuation is when resident bacteria in the ground consumes the remaining contaminants.

The level of contaminants in the area of the 1988 leak is projected to go below the environmental standards by 2025, according to Jasaitis.

In addition to the 1988 leak, a 1998 surface diesel spill and the 2005 removal of three underground storage tanks are areas of active concern at the site. These areas are overseen by LSRP William O’Brien on behalf of Vashisht and have reportedly been cleared of contamination.

Speaking about the 1998 diesel spill at the Aug. 10 meeting, O’Brien said clean soil samples and a final report were submitted to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2000, but the area was never closed.

At the Sept. 14 meeting, O’Brien said he was writing a remedial response action outcome for the 1998 spill, which would be submitted to the DEP and close the site as an area of concern. O’Brien is expecting to finalize the document in the next two to three weeks.

The underground storage tank removal in 2005 became an active area of concern because two post-excavation soil samples exceeded the environmental standards for chemicals at the time, according to O’Brien at the Aug. 10 meeting.

At the Sept. 14 meeting, O’Brien said final testing of the soil was pending, but he reported that the initial tests determined the soil samples were below the environmental standards for chemicals. Following a final review of the results, O’Brien is projecting to write a response action outcome for the area.

Because of the environmental issues at the property, the board approved Vashisht’s application with the conditions that the board and the township will receive periodic reports concerning the remediation of the area of the 1988 leak and the board will receive the remedial action outcomes of the areas overseen by O’Brien. Restaurants will not be permitted in the building. The application will be reviewed by the township engineer and the board’s planner.

Board Vice Chairman Chris Pepe, board members Thomas Pado, Robert Beck and Jeffrey Ziner, and Mayor Bob Kinsey and Township Committeewoman Nancy Grbelja, both of whom sit on the board, voted to approve the retail building. Board member Mary Pinney abstained from voting on the application.