MAHWAH, N.J. -- Spent lead bullets found in a remote section of a firing range at the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Training Institute in Mahwah has some concerned that contaminants have leached into the Ramapo River -- a source of township drinking water.
However, Mayor Bill LaForet said Friday afternoon that the three wells in question were sealed years ago.
What's more, he said, "the last time the wells were tested for lead was on 4/27/2016."
Other wells along the Ramapo River all tested below the reporting limit, the mayor said.
"Our wells are tested frequently and are pristine," Laforet told Daily Voice. "But to double down, I'm having them and tested again, and every remaining well in Mahwah, starting Monday, to set aside any concerns residents may have regarding the safe quality of our pristine drinking water."
Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco said the county Office of Environmental Health "ordered that the soil pile where the spent shells were found be immediately secured with tarpaulin covering and silt fencing to help prevent any potential environmental impacts" after township officials notified him on April 6.
"Samples of the soil pile were obtained and sent for laboratory soil classification testing," Tedesco told them in an email.
"At the time of investigation, additional historic environmental concerns were discovered to exist in the immediate area surrounding of the soil pile," the county executive wrote. "These additional historic environmental concerns require further investigation by a remediation professional in order to be properly mitigated."
The county Health Services Office, which Tedesco said is the lead investigative agency in the matter, "will retain the services of a remediation professional to develop a scope of work that fully addresses both the current and historical environmental concerns [there]," he said.
It all began, LaForet said, when he and other township officials received an anonymous text that "was the equilvalent of 'The sky is falling'."
No sooner was Tedesco's office notified of the discovery at the Campgaw Road facility more than a week ago than immediate action was taken, the mayor said.
LaForet also did some research:
- Campgaw well TP014020 at 295 Campgaw Road: Put out of service on 1/1/2006 and sealed forever on 4/8/2009.
- Fardale # 1 Well TP012015 at 7 Birch Road: Put out of service on 5/20/2004
- Fardale # 2 TP013017 at 12 Valentine Court: Put out of service on 10/26/2001.
"It's prudent of elected officials to gather all the facts before making public statements based on 'what ifs' and hypotheticals," the mayor told Daily Voice. There's no sense scaring the public when we don't know the facts.
"And we will ASAP."
The debris has been there about a year, in an area with wetland and streams that drain into the river -- a primary source of drinking water for Mahwah wells, Councilman Rob Hermansen noted during a news conference Friday outside Township Hall.
Some of the rounds have oxidized into the soil, added New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. The risk lies in whether rain has washed the lead into groundwater, he said.
"We don't know the level of contamination or how widespread it is," Tittel said, "but testing is being done."