Pit Stop demolition begins, making way for passive park after contamination is evaluated

The long-awaited demolition of the former Pit Stop service station at 1175 Lawrence Road  has begun.LEA KAHN/STAFF
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The long-awaited demolition of the former Pit Stop service station at 1175 Lawrence Road  has begun.LEA KAHN/STAFF

The long-awaited demolition of the former Pit Stop service station at 1175 Lawrence Road  has begun.

A workman on an excavator took the first bite out of the abandoned building July 12. Work is expected to continue for the rest of the week.

Lawrence Township officials received a $239,524 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation fund to pay for the demolition of the building and to study the soil underneath it, Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said.

Demolition of the abandoned building is necessary so the ground underneath it can be studied for possible contamination, Nerwinski said. It is likely that the soil is contaminated, because the News Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s spill line was notified several times of discharges that occurred at the site.

Once the township’s 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 said.

“The goal of this complicated process will result in the site being cleaned, the owner conveying the property to the township for $1, and the township creating a passive park for residents 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 the property because there are liens totaling about $2 million against it by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for past remediate 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 2020.

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 discharge 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 several 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.