Public voices fear of gas pipeline

Appleview: will remove 1,000 cubic yards of Palisades ‘material’

The explosion in San Bruno, Calif. last month has sent shock waves into many communities where residents live in uneasy proximity to high pressure natural gas pipelines. At the third North Bergen Planning Board meeting for a developer whose proposed five-story waterfront building would be built close to a pipeline and Guttenberg’s Galaxy Towers, a lawyer for the condo towers association and a local resident raised safety concerns and referred to the West Coast tragedy.
At the two-hour meeting last Wednesday for Appleview, LLC, which is owned by Carmelo Spoleti and is being represented by attorney Carmine Alampi, engineer Calisto Bertin presented the rest of his testimony. Bertin, who last appeared at the July 29 meeting, gave geotechnical details before being cross-examined by Galaxy Condo Association Attorney John Lamb and a Galaxy resident.
Bertin is a principal of Johnson Soils Company of Glen Rock, the company conducting the geotechnical work on the site. He said Lisa Mahle-Gerco will complete this testimony at the next meeting on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.


“My opinion [is] that the cliff is the area that rises above the dirt, the exposed rock face would be the cliff.” – Calisto Bertin

Bertin said an underground water retention system will be dug to collect storm runoff from the cliffs and would be placed below the building’s parking lot. One of the drainage pipes leading to the underground retention system would be approximately 18 feet from the Transco Williams Gas Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York City. It crosses under River Road and the northern section of the property, close to North Bergen’s Woodcliff Sewerage Treatment Plant and other hi-rise residential buildings.
Lamb asked if digging would occur close to the pipeline during construction. Bertin said digging would be done around 16 feet from a portion of it, while the building itself would be about 24 feet away.
Lamb also questioned why an easement allowing them to build and giving Transco access to the property for maintenance was on their engineering plans when they have not received consent for the easement from Williams Gas Pipeline yet.
Bertin said that the company had been on the site every single time they were present and that an agreement was in the works.

Gas line fears

The proposed 59 unit residential building, scaled back over the years from 140 units and composed of concrete and steel on the first floor and wood framing, would sit on a 2.3-acre site, located at 7009 and 7101 River Rd. The developer is seeking a variance from the township’s ordinance requiring a minimum five acre lot for a project of this size. They have also applied to consolidate the four different tax lots of the property into one.
“One of the areas where the public is very concerned about this project is the matter of the gas pipeline, that being particular since this is a very large pipeline, 36-inch, high-pressured 800 psi gas pipeline supplying over half of Manhattan’s natural gas, which is quite a lot,” said Jeremy Raben, a Galaxy resident who was the only member of the public to speak. “I am one of those people who would be killed probably, if that pipeline were to explode, and that’s some of the reason why for five years I’ve been coming to these [related] meetings.”
Raben said the 1994 Edison, N.J. natural gas explosion caused by careless excavating knocked down brick buildings as far away as a third of a mile and asked Bertin how the building would sustain a similar blast.
Planning Board Attorney Steven Muhlstock asked Raben to keep his testimony to Bertin’s engineering expertise and not speculative scenarios.
Raben said that the San Bruno explosion’s gas line was much smaller and not as old as this one. He questioned why it was speculative when it was a “real incident.”
He also asked if placing wood pilings into the front of the building would disturb the pipe. Bertin said that would be answered by another expert at the next meeting. The fire safety of the building was also brought up. Raben wondered why there wasn’t an exit onto the Palisades, since he said a potential explosion would probably occur underground.
“It’s no different than you evacuating tower three in the Galaxy,” said Planning Board Member Manuel Fernández. “When there is a fire in the Galaxy the elevators recall down and down the stairs you exit.”
Fernández said that the proposed building met the codes by having a sprinkler system.

1,000 cubic yards

Bertin said that over an acre was the steep section of the property. On an engineering drawing he indicated the section which he considered cliff, which was an area of about 10 feet of the 275 foot wide property.
“My opinion [is] that the cliff is the area that rises above the dirt, the exposed rock face would be the cliff and I guess if you were to dig down you could expose more of the continuation of the cliff below grade, it’s the same rock formation, just underground,” said Bertin.
Bertin said that “rock” was found at different elevation, but mostly below the elevation of the building except for in western portion toward the Palisade Cliffs, which is at some points five feet higher.
Bertin estimated that around 1,000 cubic yards of rock and soil of the Palisades would be removed from the property. Lamb asked if he considered it a part of the Palisades.
“Yes, I guess you can say that we are moving part of the Palisades ridge,” said Bertin.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at

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