The alleged pollution caused by Mercer Rubber Company at Hamilton’s Sayen Gardens is still under contention, despite years of community concern and government investigations.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) examined samples of water and soil from Sayen Gardens in October 2006, following recommendations by the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH).
The “Mercer Rubber Off-Site Investigation Fact Sheet,” published in September 2007 by the NJDEP concluded that “some areas of Sayen Gardens continue to have levels of contaminants above the most restrictive soil cleanup criteria.”
In the January 2013 Times of Trenton article by Mike Davis entitled, “For those near old Mercer Rubber Co., a mystery remains,” an area resident, Bruce Bovasso, surveyed his neighbors and petitioned state and federal agencies regarding the pollution in Sayen Gardens.
Bovasso actions spurred the state into conducting the 2006 testing. Bovasso told Mike Davis, “They substantiated a lot of what we believed, but they never really could connect the dots,” Bovasso said. “They were never really able to say, ‘This was here, that happened and caused cancer.’”
Sayen Gardens, a botanical garden, in the middle of the suburban spiral of Hamilton Township is 2 miles from MCCC’s West Windsor campus at the corner of Hughes Drive and Mercer Street.
The park includes the Sayen House, where the late Frederick and Anne Sayen lived and the gardens. Next to the gardens was the Mercer Rubber Company, Sayen’s former family business. Mercer Rubber was first opened in 1866 by the Sayen family and was sold in 1982 to Mason Industries from Long Island.
Over the years, there has been some controversy over the pollution that allegedly took place in the park. Some residents have been suspicious of what may have been dumped at Sayen Gardens, the former site of the Mercer Rubber Company, and that it may be leading to health concerns in the area.
The 2007 NJDEP report also indicated that the high levels of contaminants did not pose a risk to the public.
Lester Finch, Chair of Hamilton Township’s Environmental Commission said in an email that in the three years that he has been Commission chair, “there has been no discussion specific to Sayen Gardens and/or pollution at the site.”
When the rubber company closed in 1993, the land was redeveloped as upscale housing. Over the years, questions have been raised about exactly what remains at the site from Mercer Rubber and what waste may have been disposed of by the company on the Sayen property across the street.
During the past two decades, the Sayen House and Gardens have become popular venues for both private and public events. Eileen Gore, Hamilton Township’s Municipal clerk, serves as the President of the Trustees of the Friends of Sayen Gardens.
Originally, the friends oversaw events at the house, but a law change in 2008 put that function in the hands of the township. The current role of the Friends of Sayen Gardens, according to Gore, is “to fundraise monies and provide some touches to the house.” The Friends of Sayen Gardens holds a number of fundraising events, such as wine tastings. The fundraising is necessary because “the township doesn’t always have money to make the improvements,” said Gore.
When asked about the continuing allegations of pollution, Hamilton Director of Public Works David Carothers responded via email: “The extent of the debris that is located in [Sayen Gardens] is unknown at this time, due to the fact that it has been overgrown with vegetation over the years. Heavy equipment will be required to get into this area, excavation will need to be done with DEP approval and possibly permits.”