County Yard New Brunswick Rail Yard
New Brunswick, NJ
If you have questions or comments on the restoration plans for these sites, contact AskEnvironmental@Amtrak.com.
Since 2001, Amtrak has been working on environmental investigations at the “County Yard Rail Yard” (County Yard). County Yard is approximately 24.72 acres in size, is located southeast of Jersey Avenue, East of Van Dyke Avenue, and adjoins the main line of the Northeast Corridor commuter rail line. County Yard was impacted by PCB-containing transformer oils from historic electrified rail operations.
Amtrak currently owns the property. Amtrak and New Jersey Transit (NJT) have agreements in place for NJT to utilize a portion of County Yard to construct a rail yard and a maintenance and inspection building. The restoration project will be managed by NJT and includes excavation, loading and offsite transportation and the disposal of contaminated soils.
Amtrak acquired County Yard in April 1976 when Amtrak gained ownership of the Northeast Corridor. In January 1983, NJT launched commuter rail operations in the state after Conrail ceased passenger rail operations. Although NJT has operated a portion of County Yard since 1983, Amtrak has never performed train operations at County Yard. The site also includes a portion of the “Millstone Branch,” just south of County Yard, which leads to the NJT’s Jersey Avenue Station. NJT and commuter operations of predecessor railroads have been using County Yard for overnight storage of self-propelled, electrical equipment used on the Northeast Corridor line.
County Yard is currently developed with three active electrified siding tracks used for train storage, with a capacity of four trains (total of 34 cars), an access road, parking area, two abandoned former storage structures, an electrical substation and approximately eight abandoned rail tracks visible in the northern end of the rail yard.
Several environmental investigations have been completed on behalf of NJT and Amtrak in order to evaluate the impacts at County Yard. Historically, PCBs were detected in site soils and reported to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Future environmental restoration activities will be led by NJT and conducted pursuant to the approved remedial plans, with oversight by Amtrak’s NJDEP-Licensed Site Remediation Professional.
Soil and sediment impacted with PCBs above NJDEP’s Non-Residential Direct Contact Soil Remediation Standards (NRDCSRS) were identified at County Yard during sampling events that occurred from 1999 to 2006. Because the continued operation of the yard was critical to commuter services on the Northeast Corridor, NJT temporarily capped the yard (exclusive of the track areas) with a geotextile liner and six inches of crushed stone. Sampling was conducted in 2006 in the active portion of County Yard and along the Millstone Branch track of the Jersey Avenue Station. Impacts to the soil were identified in both areas.
As the site owner, Amtrak has continued the Remedial Investigation (RI) activities. The remedial investigation report (RIR) was completed in May 2017, with a Self-Implementing Cleanup and Disposal Plan (SICP) approved by the EPA in January 2018. The restoration work at this site is overseen by both EPA and NJDEP. On May 26, 2021, Amtrak and NJT signed a Permanent Easement for County Yard and a side agreement that will allow NJT to construct a new service and inspection building on the property. NJT is undertaking the bulk of cleanup responsibilities under these agreements.
Beginning in 2023, NJT in partnership with Amtrak, began the first phase of environmental restoration of the County Yard rail site. NJT’s current schedule indicates the second larger phase of remedial construction will begin in 2024. For the Amtrak-owned property, the remedial goal is to remove PCB-impacted soil to meet the NJDEP Non‐Residential cleanup standard.
What are PCBs?
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are human-made organic chemicals that are part of the chlorinated hydrocarbon family. Once released into the environment, PCBs do not break down easily, persist in soil or other contaminated matter and can bioaccumulate (meaning they can accumulate over time in a living organism). According to the EPA, PCBs have been shown to cause adverse health effects to animals and humans. PCBs were manufactured for use in industrial and commercial applications until their production was banned by Congress in 1979. PCB-containing oil was used in transformers in electrical equipment because of PCBs’ non-flammability, stability and electrical insulation properties.
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