Using Recycled Asphalt in Quarry Reclamation Worries ‘Greens’

Environmentalists argue oils and heavy metals in the material could seep into groundwater if employed for quarry reclamation

road paving
The state is looking to expand the use of recycled asphalt pavement, but some environmentalists are concerned about allowing the material to be used in quarry reclamation projects.

That could happen under legislation (S-3521), sponsored by Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen), which is aimed at dealing with how to use recycled asphalt pavement, sometimes described as the nation’s most recycled product.

The bill would expand the use of the material in parking lots, walkways, and quarry reclamation projects. There is plenty of recycled asphalt pavement, or RAP, left around to use somewhere.

The Asphalt Pavement Association of New Jersey estimates more than 15 million tons of the material are generated here each year. About 20 percent is typically recycled, according to Kevin Monaco, executive director of the association.

New Jersey, however, is more restrictive than many other states about where the material goes and how it is used, leaving many members of the association with piles of it accumulating around their operations.

“This legislation will provide enormous economic benefits,’’ Monaco told the Senate Environment and Energy Committee this past week. The committee released the bill despite reservations voiced by environmentalists who worry oils and heavy metals in the material could seep into groundwater if used in quarry reclamation projects.

“Groundwater is our lifeline,’’ said Bill Kibler, director of policy for the Raritan Headwaters Association. He noted many quarries operate below the groundwater level, posing a threat that contaminants may leach into the water.

About 25 percent of the state’s population relies on groundwater for their drinking-water supplies, environmentalists said. Groundwater supplies already are under stress from overuse and pollution, Kibler said.

Proponents of the bill argued there are several studies that conclude recycled asphalt rarely leaches contaminants. Gordon is expected to meet with interest groups this week to try and hammer out a compromise.