Preliminary work on the monitoring wells at the former Pit Stop service station at 1175 Lawrence Road has begun, which will start the process of demolishing the vacant building.
Lawrence Township officials were able to obtain an access agreement with the executor of the estate of the sole member of the defunct limited liability company that owned the property, Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said.
“This will start the process for the demolition of the building, after permits are obtained, and for the ground underneath it to be studied for contamination,” Nerwinski said.
It is expected that the building will be torn down in a few months.
In July, Lawrence Township officials learned that the township’s grant application to the New Jersey Economic Development Administration’s Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Municipal Grant program had been approved.
With the $239,524 state grant in hand, township officials can continue with the environmental assessment of the property, including demolition of the boarded-up building so the soil underneath it may be examined for possible contamination.
The extent of the contamination underneath the building is unknown, Nerwinski said. Once the consultant, Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, completes the investigation and provides a cost estimate to remedy the site, the information will be used as the basis for grant funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to remediate the site.
Township officials would like to have the property cleaned up through grant funding and then acquire title to the property. The township could create a passive park area for the community to enjoy, Nerwinski said.
The property at 1175 Lawrence Road, between Altamawr and Meriline avenues, is owned by a limited liability company whose sole member has died. The family is handling the estate, but they do not have any legal obligation to address any of the issues affecting the site, Nerwinski said.
They are not motivated to sell it because there are liens totaling about $2 million against it by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for past remediation work, and by Lawrence Township for unpaid property taxes, he said.
The family was approached by the township several years ago, and the two sides reached an agreement that led to the township applying for the grant that was approved in July.
The former Pit Stop service station has a long history that dates back more than two decades, when it was known as the Lawrence Road Service Center. It later became known as the Pit Stop Service Center.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection became involved in the late 1990s after its environmental spill line was notified three times between 1997 and 1998 of discharges that occurred at the site.
The owner was ordered to stop selling gasoline, but the Pit Stop continued operating as a service station until 2003.
After some neighborhood residents complained of odors in their drinking water – which came from private wells – in 2003, the Lawrence Township Health Department sampled the wells and discovered that five of the 13 wells were contaminated. The affected properties were hooked up to city water.
Later in 2003, the property owner was ordered to remove seven underground storage tanks. The property went into foreclosure and was purchased by 1175 Lawrence Road LLC in 2005. The new owner removed the underground storage tanks and 2,000 tons of petroleum-contaminated soil in 2006.
Subsequently, a multi-phase remediation investigation of the site was launched in 2010 by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to determine the nature and extent of the contamination.