The fight to give a 6-and-a-half acre lot back to the community ended Tuesday when local and federal officials announced the removal of the property from the federal National Priorities List (NPL).
The site is located at the intersection of Black Oak Ridge Road and Pompton Plains Crossroad.
Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the state Department of Public Works and Congressman Bill Pascrell made the announcement at the site Tuesday afternoon.
The site was “no longer a threat to public health and the environment,” said Judith Enck, the EPA’s regional administrator.
A 40-foot high pile of thorium-laced soil was removed from the site. That was only a part of the $125 million clean-up the site underwent.
Former Mayor David Waks worked for years to have the site cleaned up and beautified. Wake died in 2007 from lung cancer. He was a councilman from 1972 to 1993 and mayor from 1993 to 2000.
“It was a lifelong battle for him to get it cleaned up,” Waks’ widow, Joan, said. “I just remember all of these people in the area, they were very active as a citizen army to not let people forget that this needed to be cleaned up.”
W.R. Grace & Co. processed ore and buried much of the waste material on the site from 1948 to 1971. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found radioactive waste and building rubble underneath the site. Melting snow and rainwater transported the hazardous materials to surrounding properties and into an adjacent brook.
It was added to the NPL in 1984.
The U.S. Department of Energy managed the site from 1984 to 1997 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took over the remediation.
More than 135,000 cubic yards of contaminated material was removed from the site since 1997. The soil contained radioactive contaminants, including radium, thorium and uranium, and various chemicals, including arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury.
The site was deemed clean in 2001. It was remediated to residential standards, something Waks and Pascrell actively fought for. The designation means people may use the site on a regular basis. The EPA will continue to monitor the property.
"It's been a long time coming," Pascrell said.
The cleanup cost approximately $125 million. W.R. Grace paid $35 million to complete the cleanup. It is the first site under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program where the polluter paid to remediate the site.
The town will build a dog park and playground on the property. The project is being financed with a $99,000 grant from the county Open Space Preservation Trust fund and a $350,000 grant from the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program.
The park is slated to open in late Spring 2013.
“The people of Wayne have been plagued by this toxic site for years so I am thrilled to see it cleaned up and replaced by a park that can be enjoyed by all of our residents,” Mayor Chris Vergano said in a statement.