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64 Acre Deptford Brownfield Property to Become a Solar Field.  Tree Clearing Starts

64 Acre Deptford Brownfield Property to Become a Solar Field.  Tree Clearing Starts
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Trees are being cleared on a 64-acre Deptford property on Almonesson Road, ahead of development of a large solar field which will include the proper closing (and other environmental improvements) of areas deemed “legacy landfill”

Updated: Factoring in buffers, wetlands and other undevelopable segments.. 38 acres of the property will have solar panels. The total property size is 64 acres

The solar field will be a large array of ground level solar panels, and be developed in three separate phases.  Once completed it will generate a combined 15 MW of power, which is stated will serve over 500 low and moderate income residents in the PSEG territory of Gloucester County.

The land for the project is located on a mostly undeveloped stretch of Almonesson Road between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Big Timber Creek.    The previously wooded large lot is located directly across from The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

From the 1940s through the 1970s the planned solar field property was used as a pig farm which received food waste from Philadelphia restaurants.  The food waste was used as feed for the pigs.

A review of historical aerial imagery shows that from the 1930s to the 1970s the property was mostly open space.  When the farming stopped operating, Mother Nature took over and trees grew into a fully wooded property.

Deptford Almonesson property for Solar Field 1963 – Image: Historic Aerials

The Deptford Community Solar project on Almonesson Road will enable the Township to repurpose a legacy landfill on a parcel of land situated in a prime location for this type of use. It is secluded from local neighborhoods, out of sight, and can be developed with little impact on the character of any neighborhood. It will provide a clean, renewable resource while providing the energy needs for future generations and help to fulfill the goal of 100% renewable energy in the years ahead. As one of the first Community Solar Projects of its kind in the area, we are excited by the opportunity to host such an environmentally lauded project.

Deptford Mayor Paul Medany – Letter of Support to the NJ Board of Public Utilities

Project Includes Closing Landfill

Some may ask “Why not build the solar farm in an area where no trees need to be removed?”

Simply, for many decades before the 1970s not only was the property a pig farm, it was also used as an unapproved landfill in some parts, particularly on the Western half. Besides solid waste in areas, it introduced contaminants into the soil and groundwater.  To this day the property has never been closed (contained) nor environmentally monitored.

As part of the development of the solar field, the developer is required to close the property under an agreement (and guidance) with the State of New Jersey, as well as continue monitoring it for 30 years after closure.

Environmental research at the site over the last few years/decades shows that along with the organic food waste, other solid waste materials were dumped in parts of the property.  Those areas are now deemed as legacy landfill.

Project documents state the source of the landfill material consisted of domestic food wastes mixed with inorganic solid wastes (plates, silver ware, bottles, etc.).

Deptford Township’s resolution on the approval of the project describes the contamination as “contaminated with municipal refuse from feeding operations. In general, the refuse was disposed of in pits or mixed in with soil in the upper layers of the site”

This prior use decades ago introduced contaminants in the soil and groundwater, including PCBs, pesticides, and metals (arsenic, lead, and vanadium) in soil and sediments and trichloroethene (TCE), metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury), and landfill indicator nitrogen (as ammonia) in ground water.

This is likely why residential housing developers did not grab up this property 30 years ago to build homes!

Now locally famous, this little boat has been on the Almonesson Road property for years!

New Jersey classifies contaminated and under utilized commercial properties as “brownfields” and has implemented programs which target cleaning up contaminated properties, making them safer for the environment, and then positioning them for redevelopment.

As part of this solar field project, the developer is required to fully “close” the property which includes a full cap/cover over the landfill areas, install groundwater monitoring, remove identified waste in the western mudflat area of the creek, implement grading to control water and other improvements.

As mentioned the property will be environmentally monitored for 30 years.

Design document for the new Almonesson Rd Solar Field. The red highlight is Phase 1.

Recommendation letters from area officials as well as documents from the developer and State Environmental officials paint a picture that the property’s proposed new use as a solar farm is perfectly suitable for the property, and it will also provide an opportunity for the proper “closure” of the landfill elements, cleanup identified exposed waste areas and implement monitoring.

This past week crews arrived on the large property to the process of cutting down the many trees that had grown over the last 50 years, stacking them in piles ahead of transporting off of the property.

While I do not have a timeline for full project implementation it likely will be several years for the closure process and three phases of solar field arrays.