This week the Newark Housing Authority officially “breaks ground” on the redevelopment of the Cleveland Heights Public Housing Project property. A new apartment complex, to be renamed “Alder Creek”, is being developed in a public-private partnership with New Jersey-based Ingerman Group on a portion of the original site.
The property where Cleveland Heights was constructed was purchased from the City of Newark in the early 1960s following the land’s use as a municipal landfill and wastewater treatment plant. In 1983 the Environmental Protection Agency conducted a preliminary assessment of the site, but it was not until 19 years later, in 2002, that the State of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) got involved. Shallow soil samples collected by DNREC showed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) (including benzo(a)pyrene) in levels exceeding the residential standard (DNREC Site Assessment, 2003).
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reports that because PAHs evaporate from surface soils to air, exposure risk associated is with contact with contact with contaminated soil or vaporized PAH in the air. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classiffied benzo(a)pyrene as a Group 1 carcinogen.
In 2007 the Newark Housing Authority received permission from HUD to vacate the property. The property was put up for auction in March 2008 but received no bids. Unable to sell the property, in October 2008 the Newark Housing Authority entered into a Voluntary Cleanup Program agreement with DNREC and hired an environmental consulting firm to investigate contamination at the site.
The property was divided into 2 operable units: OU1 and OU2. OU 1 was not on the landfill and soiil samples meet the residential standard. OU2 includes the landfill and has greater contamination. In the Cleveland Heights public housing project, a total of 9 buildings (18 housing units) were located in OU2 (the contaminated part of the site). Of these, 2 buildings (4 housing units) were constructed directly on top of the landfill.
The Newark Housing Authority’s site is a certified brownfield and redevelopment will be monitored by DNREC. The legacy of public health and environmental risk of housing adjacent to and on top of a landfill remains to be addressed.