The Toms River Township Planning Board has reportedly approved a proposal to build a large solar farm on the property that once housed the Ciba Geigy Superfund site.

Toms River Merchant Solar LLC, a subsidiary of EDF Renewables, plans to lease 166 acres of the site to generate 35 megawatts of solar powered electricity and construction could start as early as 2020, according to the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“New Jersey’s largest solar farm has just been approved by the Toms River Planning Board. This is an important project that will take one of the dirtiest sites in New Jersey and turn it into clean energy. New Jersey needs to have large solar installations on toxic and brownfield sites rather than building it on a greenfield. A solar farm on the former Ciba-Geigy Superfund is a step in the right direction,” Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said. “A solar farm at Ciba-Geigy is good news for Tom River residents and can generate power for over 6500 homes. Now that project has been approved, it’s critical that the township, DEP, and EPA need to make sure that the solar farm will not interfere with the cleanup of the site.”

Tittel says that the Ciba property, which is roughly the size of Hoboken, at 1.25 sq. miles, is the largest continuous piece of undeveloped land in Toms River.

“While the solar farm project moves forward, it is critical for the EPA and DEP to work together and make sure the site is properly cleaned and ready. They should not use the solar farm as cover for capping, however. The cap there will not work because of the high levels of contamination in the groundwater. There are still toxic and cancer-causing chemicals in the groundwater and tens of thousands of tons of waste still remain at the site’s landfills,” Tittel said. “A solar farm is the right type of development for the former Ciba-Geigy site. We need to make sure that the site is cleaned up, however. The people of Toms River have been suffering from the contamination coming from Ciba Geigy superfund site for too long, they deserve a full cleanup. It is too important for the health and safety of the community.”

EDF Renewables said that they will lease a portion of the property formally identified as Lots 6.02 and 6.03, Block 411 from the property owner, BASF, in order to construct a 35 Megawatt (MW) DC solar array system.

The project will be built nearly entirely within the footprint of the former manufacturing site.

The proposed solar project will occupy approximately 117 acres, of which nearly 50% will remain as open space, not covered by solar panels or associated equipment.

These open areas will remain available as habitat for wildlife.

There will be no more than two acres of trees removed to accommodate the proposed clean energy project.

The project site is zoned industrial by the Township of Toms River and the proposed solar facility is a permitted use under the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law.

BASF will continue to remediate the site as required by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and United States Environmental Project Agency (USEPA) and the proposed solar project will not interfere with required remediation obligations.

"The grounds have been remediated, and the cap design was approved and supervised by the USEPA, and have been in place for many years," EDF Spokesman Elliott Shanley told WOBM News. "The Solar system will sit on top of a few caps, however there will no penetrations of the cap. The entire project is under the purview of  the NJDEP, the USEPA, and the US Army Corp to insure that the project is constructed and maintained  to properly and safely."

The EPA has been overseeing cleanup at the CIBA-GEIGY site since the property was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1982.

The Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corporation site was owned and operated by the Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corporation where they manufactured dyes, pigments, resins and epoxy additives between 1952 and 1990, according to the EPA.

Controversy began to swirl when in 1985 Ciba officials began pumping contaminated groundwater and discharging it with treated wastewater to the Atlantic Ocean via a ten mile pipeline, however the EPA has been focused on clean up efforts at the site for more than two decades.

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