Football Field Diagnosis: Costly, But Not Toxic


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CostIt will likely cost at least $1.9 million to rehabilitate the Verona High School football field, but the building rubble that was used to fill the field when it was expanded four decades ago is not toxic. That is the conclusion of an engineering report presented to the Board of Education on Tuesday evening.

In late winter, French & Parrello Associates dug into 12 spots across Sellitto Field, as the upper field has come to be known, that had been flagged in a survey of the field with ground penetrating radar. What they dug up was not pretty: The photos in the report, which you can view here, show chunks of concrete, asphalt and steel rebar just inches beneath the surface of the field. Much of the landfill used to create the field in the late 1970s came from a demolished Edison factory in West Orange. The junk wasn’t packed down properly, so gaps developed and water ran through, eroding the surrounding dirt and sinkholes developed. The hole that opened in August 2012 was the shaft of a well that apparently was part of a series of utility tunnels that were put on the property when it was a boys’ home at the turn of the century.

The second hole that opened on Sellitto Field last fall.
The second hole that opened on Sellitto Field last fall.
Contrary to one rumor that has been floating around town, there are no barrels full of chemicals buried in the field. But French & Parrello found polyaromatic hydrocarbons, chlordane and lead, and four soil samples contained materials that exceeded state standards. Chlordane is a pesticide, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons are substances derived from fossil fuels that were used to bind asphalt together. Asphalt is fine when it is in your driveway, but when it gets broken into chunks, the state deems it a problem in need of remediation.

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French & Parrello outlined three ways of remediating the situation on the fields. We could simply put a large fence around the site, lock it and never use it again. That would cost $97,500, and the firm noted that there was no guarantee that the state Department of Environmental Protection would approve that plan.

On the opposite end of the cost spectrum, we could dig the entire mess up, haul it away, and fill the field with what it should have been filled with in the first place. Cost: $7,135,750, a number that is not very palatable in light of the $9.1 million in work that the Board of Education has already identified for a referendum.

The test sites on the field.
The test sites on the field.
But there is another option that is closer to the lower end. For roughly $1.9 million, we could bring in a crane and a giant concrete weight that would slam down on every inch of the field, compacting the ground to eliminate all the gaps that have developed. The pounding would lower the level of the field by about two feet, so we would then need to put two feet of topsoil on top and cap it with either grass or turf (the cost of artificial turf is not included in the $1.9 million price tag, nor are the bleachers and sprinkler system that would have to be replaced as a result of the work.) Compaction is an accepted construction practice and it would take about two weeks to pack down the entire field.

What’s next? French & Parello’s report will be added to the engineering studies that will be used as the basis of a referendum that will cover a wide range of buildings and grounds issues. (It is unlikely that the PILOT money that is being used to fund the construction of two multipurpose sports fields at the Hilltop will be shared with the schools.) BOE President John Quattrocchi said at Tuesday’s meeting that the referendum would likely be put to a vote early next spring. Assuming it passes, the field could be playable again in the fall of 2014.

The consultants’ presentation and the audience questions are at the start of this video from the BOE’s May 14 meeting:

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


  1. A.J.Rombough was the grading contractor.I remember their D-8 cat dozer pushing those big chunks of debris off! Where was the soil inspector. I guess he was doing something more important?


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