Though it faced legal battles and delay in winning approvals, a paving contractor has started building an asphalt plant in Lopatcong Township.
Intercounty Paving Associates LLC, based in Hackettstown, New Jersey, is building the plant at 189 Strykers Road in Warren County.
The site is next to Precast Manufacturing Co., a pre-cast concrete product supplier, and near several other businesses.
Precast’s president, Gregory Fisher, had previously spoken out against the project. He and a group of residents filed lawsuits against Intercounty Paving and township governing bodies for approving the project several years ago.
But after five public hearings and a show of opposition from residents, the planning board ultimately approved the project in 2012.
According to reports from Lehigh Valley Live, Intercounty Paving originally sought approval in 2011 to build an asphalt plant in Alpha, a nearby borough. However, the company ultimately withdrew its application after facing heavy community opposition.
Lopatcong Township council approved an ordinance permitting solar and asphalt plants in the township’s industrial zone in 2011.
Though Fisher and other plaintiffs who filed lawsuits appealed a court decision on ordinance changes, and adequate public notice by the township, they ended up losing their appeal in the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division in 2017. The appellate division ruled the township gave proper notice of the meetings and that asphalt plants are a permitted use.
Representatives from Intercounty Paving did not return requests for comment.
According to its website, Intercounty Paving has an office in Westbury, N.Y. and is a large, full service construction company that employs more than 300 people annually. Its customers include PennDOT, NJDOT, and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Although construction is underway, Fisher still has concerns over the impact of the project on his employees’ health, citing concerns over plant emissions.
“There is definitely a need for asphalt plants, but they should be located in areas where they will not have an adverse effect on other people,” said Fisher, who has operated his business for 24 years. “What am I supposed to do if my employees and I have adverse reactions from the smell of hot asphalt?”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than a half-million workers are exposed to fumes from asphalt, a petroleum product used extensively in road paving, roofing, siding, and concrete work.
Health effects from exposure to asphalt fumes include headache, skin rash, sensitization, fatigue, reduced appetite, throat and eye irritation, cough, and skin cancer, according to OSHA.
There is no OSHA standard or permissible exposure level to asphalt fumes.
According to a February 2012 statement by Susan Angyal, a professional engineer who spoke at a planning board meeting, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection will regulate the site to ensure emissions are not harmful. Emission sources only operate with an approved air permit issued by the NJDEP, she said in a statement. The NJDEP is responsible for reviewing all air permit applications before issuing approval to construct and operate the plant.
The asphalt plant will produce and recycle asphalt and bring 200 trucks each day through the township up Route 519 from Strykers Road to Route 22 where they have access to Interstate 78, he said.
Aside from truck traffic, many residents had expressed concerns about the plant’s proximity to an elementary school, a library and a condominium complex for senior citizens in neighboring Greenwich Township, as well as the overall impact of the project.
“This is a sad day for the future of Lopactong, but we did everything in our power to stop this,” said Juniper Leifer, a resident and leader of Lopat Speaks, a community organization she mobilized to oppose the project.