Toxic New Jersey Park Closed Indefinitely

Extensive testing is required before it can reopen

By Brian Thompson
|  Thursday, Dec 22, 2011  |  Updated 10:32 AM EDT
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Toxic New Jersey Park Closed Indefinitely

NBC New York

Votee Park

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The busiest, most popular park in Teaneck, N.J. has been shut down by township officials for an indefinite period of time.

Five baseball and soccer fields, a basketball court, and two children's playgrounds make up the 40 acres of  Votee Park, and they are now all off-limits after PCBs and other toxic chemicals were discovered in a routine test drilling.

The Environmental Protection Agency says exposure to PCBs can cause cancer and potential risks to the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyl. Manufacture of the man-made chemical was banned in the 1970s.

"It's very hard to separate kids from park," said Dolrine Phillips, owner of the Right Start Learning Center preschool across the street from one of the park's playgrounds.

Since the park was closed a few days ago, she said she can only take her 42 children outside for walks, though they would prefer to go to the playground.

The discovery of toxic chemicals several feet underground came as one of the soccer fields was being prepared for an artificial turf.

Township Manager William Broughton said Teaneck will now have to conduct extensive testing of  topsoil along with more drilling over the next few days to find out how extensive the pollution is.

"We know that fill was brought in in the '80s, and fill was probably brought in in the '30s," Broughton said of the land before it was ever a park.

And, he added, it is unlikely that fill was ever tested.

The park also has a football field used by an independent league.

And coach George Jordan is now worried about the more than 120 kids -- "who roll around in the dirt every day, four or five days a week."

Jordan called it a "heritage" of pollution, from the days when no one paid attention to environmental care.

Broughton is optimistic that whatever cleanup is required, it can be done quickly once testing reveals the extent of the pollution.

"I would be very disappointed if this park is not open by next summer," Broughton said.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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