If you’ve been around Duke Farms lately, you may have noticed the excavation of soil behind the Coach Barn. So what exactly is going on here? Here's the dirt: this soil is over almost 4 decades old and it comes with a history.
Many years ago, fuel tanks were routinely placed underground as a standard practice. In the 1980s, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) adopted new underground tank regulations that required mitigation of leakage or the removal of tanks; many underground fuel tanks were actively leaking throughout the state, contaminating the surrounding soil.
Duke Farms was home for several of these historical underground storage tanks (USTs). The tanks were identified and removed from the property in the mid-1990s. But that's not the end. At the time, as allowed by regulations, the contaminated soil surrounding the tanks was left in place; monitoring wells were installed and we established a correspondence of periodic reporting to NJDEP to track decreasing levels of contamination over time.
However, in February 2019, we decided to accelerate the decontamination process by removing the contaminated soil, approximately 650 cubic yards of it, from the former underground tank site at the Coach Barn. The soil was unearthed so we could use a natural process of above-ground storage and bioremediation known as “landfarming”; this process will cleanse the soil of remaining contaminants in anywhere from 6 months to 2+ years, as opposed to the decades it would take if the soil was left below-ground. This method “expedites” the process because exposing the soil to air and sunlight allows microorganisms (bacteria, algae, yeast, fungi) to use the carbon in the contaminated soil as an energy source, which converts the contaminants into carbon dioxide and water. Manual aeration with machinery is another element of this process.
It may look like a big pile of dirt, but it’s really a big pile of science happening right before your eyes (albeit microscopically). This soil removal and land remediation project is a testament to our commitment to be a leader in environmental stewardship.