EPA looks for contamination on battleship USS New Jersey
By CAROL COMEGNO
Environmental officials visited the battleship USS New Jersey in Philadelphia last week to identify areas that may be contaminated with hazardous materials.
Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Navy and Home Port Alliance, the group planning to convert the ship into a museum on the Camden Waterfront, toured the ship for several hours.
Meanwhile, Home Port Alliance is reviewing its list of prospective project managers, and reviewing alternate sites that may possibly house the ship before its final mooring behind the E-Centre in summer 2001.
A Navy Department spokesman at the Pentagon confirmed the EPA's visit last Wednesday but declined comment.
The Navy is assisting Home Port Alliance in obtaining federal approval for a remediation plan to remove hazardous PCBs contained in certain mechanical equipment aboard the ship. That is a requirement for an EPA occupancy permit, which is needed because the ship will be open to the public.
In January, the Navy awarded the ship to the Camden-based alliance.
Don Norcross, the alliance's vice president, accompanied the EPA, along with board member Joseph Balzano and project director Thomas Seigenthaler. Balzano and Norcross, who had been on the deck of the ship on its trip through Panama, had not been below deck until last week and said they were pleasantly surprised by the overall good condition of the interior.
Norcross termed the visit "productive" and said the alliance and the Navy addressed some of the issues raised.
"They (the EPA) were concerned about PCBs, but they did not seem alarmed during the walk-through," Balzano said of the five EPA officials. "They seemed pleased with the ship and were very congenial."
He said there may be a follow-up visit.
"The interior of the ship was in remarkably good shape, well-maintained and clean. I was very pleasantly surprised," Norcross said.
On the possibility of moving the ship to the South Jersey side of the Delaware River in the next few months, Norcross said it would be premature to comment.
"The board has not yet fully explored all possibilities and has not made a decision to move it from the Navy pier at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to the BP refinery in Paulsboro or anywhere else.''
Balzano, chairman of the alliance's construction and mooring committee, said his committee has reduced the field of project manager candidates to six and will make recommendations to the board this week. He said 12 firms answered the advertisement for qualifications last month.