Developer Bob Iovinella knew the 30 acres of wooded land on West Campbell Road was free of contamination.
The property was part of the General Electric Co.’s Riverview Plant and had changed hands several times after the facility was sold in 1988 — the same year it was listed as a Class 2 site on the state’s Superfund list. Iovinella never believed the property he purchased in 2004 had any contamination because it had always been forest land.
“It was all vacant forest land,” he said. “There was never any buildings or anything on it.”
After years of monitoring, the state Department of Environmental Conservation last week gave a large swath the parcel owned by Iovinella and business partner Timothy Larned a clean bill of health. The agency’s determination that no chemicals had been buried on the property prompted the agency to remove the land from the 52 acres classified as polluted.
“There was no evidence of hazardous waste,” DEC spokesman Rick Georgeson said.
The change in designation could mean a new project for the land. Iovinella said he’s planning to build something on the land — possibly a shopping plaza and supermarket for the western end of town — once he can level the site for development.
“I wouldn’t buy something I couldn’t develop,” he said this week.
The Riverview Plant was used for radar development and testing from the 1940s until the early 1960s, when the company’s insulating materials group was moved into the facility. The new use of the plant meant it took regular shipments of bulk chemicals from a rail spur that crosses West Campbell Road via a trestle.
Then in 1979, a county worker noticed an oily sheen from a liquid seeping from the bluff that now overlooks the Rotterdam Square mall. The discovery prompted the DEC to list the entire 52-acre parcel as contaminated in keeping with the practice of including all the land owned by a company into a Superfund designation.
“There was no comprehensive investigation of the site at the time so the entire parcel was listed to ensure all potential contamination was covered if necessary,” Georgeson said.
GE removed roughly 212 tons of contaminated soil from the plant area in 1986 — pollution that was attributed to a spill in the late 1970s.
The company also removed several large storage tanks on the property and additional contamination caused by them. The entire plot was purchased by Insulating Materials Incorporated in 1988 and used to manufacture insulation products until it was purchased in 1995 by Von Roll Isola, which continues to operate the plant today.
Parts of Von Roll’s property remain contaminated and categorized as a Superfund site. Test wells monitored by the DEC show the presence of xylene, trimethylbenzene, cumene, ethylbenzene, propylbenzene and trichloroethene in the ground water near the plant.
The contamination isn’t thought to be an immediate threat since it’s contained in the soil and doesn’t pose issues to the nearby Great Flats Aquifer, which serves as the main source of drinking water source for the county, the DEC said.
The land Iovinella and Larned bought from Von Roll has shown no sign of contamination after years of testing. “It’s prime property for retail or some sort of warehouse,” Iovinella said.