According to an engineer for a company whose gas line runs near the North Bergen/Guttenberg border, construction of the proposed Appleview condominium project nearby would have no negative impact on the pipeline.
Residents of both towns have expressed various concerns about the proposed 59-unit condo project for the three years in which it has gone before the North Bergen and Hudson County planning boards. Among those concerns was that construction of the development might cause a problem with the high-pressure Transco Williams natural gas pipeline that crosses part of the project’s property.
“This project would have no negative impact on our pipeline.” – Transco engineer Jose Rodriguez
During testimony given a week ago Tuesday at a North Bergen Planning Board hearing, Jose Rodriguez said the installation of a fence near the pipeline could be the most effective safety measure against the possible rupture of the pipeline during construction.
“I suggest that a fence be put in here temporarily,” said Rodriguez, “because if that’s fenced, there is no possible way that [construction workers] can be physically over our pipeline and therefore present no danger whatsoever to us.”
Rodriguez also told residents that the Appleview developers have agreed to retain a Transco inspector to be on site during construction at all times.
The proposed building would be near Guttenberg’s Galaxy Towers high-rise and 20 feet from the pipeline, which supplies about 40 percent of Manhattan’s natural gas.
The residential complex is to be built at 7009 and 7101 River Rd. in North Bergen.
Hearings on the proposed development resumed before the North Bergen Planning Board on Tuesday because in December, Judge Christine Farrington of the Hudson County Superior Court returned the project to the board after it had already been approved. The judge said the board did not sufficiently determine whether safety considerations required by town law have been met.
One of the factors in the judge’s decision was that a Transco representative had not assured the board of the project’s safety during hearings before the local and county planning boards.
The project received approval last year from both boards, but met a legal challenge from the Galaxy Towers Condominium Association.
No negative impact
During Tuesday’s almost five-hour hearing, Rodriguez also tried to allay concerns about vibration disrupting the pipeline.
“When [plans called for] pile driving, there was a potential for vibration to be an issue,” said Rodriguez, “but as far as my understanding of the current configuration, there is no pile driving. There should be minimal vibration associated with their work.”
Rodriguez also addressed the concerns of potential landslides.
“I do not see a potential for landslides here where the pipeline is,” said Rodriguez. “The cliff is not going to go. These soils could slide down, but it’s not going to slide down and push the pipeline. I do not believe that landslides are an issue.”
Galaxy Towers Condominium Association Attorney John Lamb objected that because Transco is not a co-applicant, they should not be able to call their own witnesses.
“We are happy that Transco is finally here,” said Lamb, “but Transco’s attorney is not a party to this.” Lamb further stated that Rodriguez should be considered a witness for Appleview’s attorney, Carmine Alampi.
Nevertheless, the board chose to allow Transco attorney Mark Stevens to call his own witnesses. Lamb further objected, saying Rodriguez should not be qualified as a safety expert.
“There’s no doubt he’s a qualified pipeline engineer,” said Lamb, “but whether he is a safety expert?”
“There are specific job titles where we have pipeline safety engineers,” said Rodriguez, adding that his personal amount of field experience helps qualify him as a safety expert. “I would determine that I would be more qualified.”
The board chose to allow Rodriguez’ testimony, despite Lamb’s objection.
Residents take the podium
Galaxy resident Jeremy Raben cross-examined Appleview engineer Calisto Bertin. Raben asked Bertin whether the pipeline in question is a “gas main” or a “gas line.”
“Are you aware that there is a very significant difference between gas main and gas line?” asked Raben. (Rodriguez later explained that the pipeline, which has a small diameter, could be referred to as a pipe, main, or a line).
“Transco is here,” said Bertin. “Why don’t you ask them and get the truth instead of relying on this?”
The board also interrupted Raben, asking him to save his questions for the public portion of the meeting.
“Months ago, the public and the Galaxy’s lawyer [Lamb] were suggesting that the pipeline safety was [the board’s] jurisdiction,” said Raben. “A judge had to rule and say that yes, indeed it is. Are you still going to make it so difficult to ask questions?”
During the public portion, North Bergen resident Dave Kronick commended Rodriguez for his testimony. He then brought up two alleged explosion incidents suffered by Transco within the last year.
Rodriguez mentioned that he was familiar with at least one of the incidents, and reassured Kronick and the board of his evaluation.
“This building has no impact on the pipeline,” Rodriguez said once again. “Whatsoever.”
Rodriguez added that he performed a calculation in order to determine how much dirt could fall on the pipeline before it becomes an issue.
“It’s a very large amount,” added Rodriguez. “I do not see how it would be a practical situation.”
Besides concerns about the pipeline, some neighbors were concerned that the construction would remove too much of the Palisade Cliffs.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.