My schadenfreude on this topic is tempered by the inevitability that New Jersey taxpayers will end up footing the bill for this catastrophe.
Workers at the Xanadu Meadowlands site have uncovered dozens of oozing drums, leaking fuel tanks, sunken pools of chemical-laced liquid and other hidden hazards since the project began almost four years ago.
The discoveries, recounted in a new report by a project engineer, show that contamination within the 104-acre Xanadu site has been widespread and will remain a concern even after the $2 billion shopping and entertainment center is due to open.
Dozens of bore holes and test wells sunk since 2007 at the construction site — the parking lot surrounding the arena at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford — show that water beneath Xanadu contains elevated levels of cancer-causing organic compounds. The report says project engineers, who are still collecting samples, are working on a plan to deal with the tainted water but will not submit it for state approval until after Xanadu's planned opening in August.
The public cost of cleaning up the construction mess and dealing with contaminated soils connected to the discoveries now stands at $2 million and could surpass $6.1 million, officials said.
At the same time, the consortium of private developers building the Xanadu site faces a $16 million bill for disposing of 71,000 cubic yards of so-called "historic" fill excavated during work on foundations, utility lines and other routine construction tasks.
Jeff Tittel, an outspoken Xanadu opponent who heads the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the state should be forcing the developers to pay for any cleanup, not extending the cost to the public. He said the state Department of Environmental Protection under former Gov. James E. McGreevey allowed Xanadu to proceed as if all contaminants at the site were historic.