Manville Creosote Factory

CLICK PHOTO TO SEE ANIMATION

My friend Jessica called me last night to tell me about Historic Areals, which is a website which collects areal photos and makes them available for everyone to see. It’s a brilliant concept, and I figured I’d steal some screen shots to talk about the Manville Creosote Factory. Most of you probably know that the former area of the Rustic Mall in Manville was recently the recipient of a Hazardous Materials clean-up after some residents reported black ooze coming up out of the ground. For those of you that arent familiar with the Creosote Factory, it basically made the black tar stuff that they use to coat telephone poles and railroad ties. If you look at the EPA’s report it says that the site contains “undeground canals and lagoons” of creosote, which contaminate the water and soil. If you look at the photo I highlighted the area around where the factory was and made a time lapsed animation of the area just to see exactly how much of the creosote factory property was developed. In the 1931 photo you can see the factory was still in full effect and pretty much strectches back to the Port Reading Junction (where the tracks meet). By 1956 the buildings are gone, by 1963 houses start to appear, and by the 70’s is pretty much a full community. The thing that is really confusing about the clean up is that it only stretched about the size of the Rustic Mall, but you can see in the photos that this is only about a fourth of the entire property of the former factory. I’m assuming that EPA monitored the cleanup, so I’m sure it was done correctly… it’s just so crazy how The Creosote Factory occupied such a huge piece of the town. I’ve been looking around for photos of the place but so far have come up empty. Anyone have any?

Here is a little more info that my buddy Roko tracked down.

“From 1910 until the mid-1950s, the Federal Creosote site was used as a wood treatment facility, which occupied approximately 50 acres in the Borough of Manville. The facility treated railroad ties and telephone poles with coal tar creosote. The excess product was discharged as creosote-contaminated sludges, sediments, process residuals, preservative drippings, and spent process liquid into canals to two lagoons located on the site.

In the mid-1960s, the property exchanged hands and was developed into 35 acres of residential property and 15 acres of commercial property. The Claremont Development residential community of 137 homes and the Rustic Acres Mall were built over much of the former facility property. Unfortunately, the redeveloped property was built on top of the untreated contaminated soil. On at least one occasion, creosote sludge seeped into a residential basement sump and was pumped out into the storm sewer.

In the spring of 1998, EPA conducted extensive surface soil sampling to determine whether there was any immediate threat to current residents. This sampling revealed that surface soil at approximately 19 homes had unacceptable levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (material associated with wood treating chemicals).”

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21 thoughts on “Manville Creosote Factory

  1. I new you would get a kick out of that website! I did two. In the 30’s and 40’s it looks like there was 1 or 2 larger bldgs (acutally larger then my house) on my property. then in the 50’s these buildings dissapear but there is a small building down by the brook and the small garage which is still there. in the 60’s another small building pops up behind the garage about half the size of the garage. That was there until the late 80’s.

    I seriously love this website. I only wish you could zoom in better.

    • My mom used to ice skate on top of the creosote when it froze over in the winter. It was called Stinky’s Pond. I unfortunately now live in that development. Went through a lot of clean up for too many years!

      • Two Stinky’s Ponds.. Truly an honor for Manville. Actually I guess the one Stinky’s pond would be considered Hillsborough but Manville made it what it is today, a non freezing green blob of somethingorother.

  2. The “infamous” stinky pond Tom mentions is/was located along Dukes Pkwy just past Jack Gerber field – what used to be the “dumps” that Johns Manville used for all the left over asbestos waste – there were four or five small ponds along the road that we would skate when frozen over – I skated there in the 60’s – don’t know what it’s like now a days – haven’t been back there for awhile.

  3. http://epa.gov/superfund/accomp/success/federal.htm

    some more background:

    “Federal Creosote Site

    From 1910 until the mid-1950s, the Federal Creosote site was used as a wood treatment facility, which occupied approximately 50 acres in the Borough of Manville. The facility treated railroad ties and telephone poles with coal tar creosote. The excess product was discharged as creosote-contaminated sludges, sediments, process residuals, preservative drippings, and spent process liquid into canals to two lagoons located on the site.

    In the mid-1960s, the property exchanged hands and was developed into 35 acres of residential property and 15 acres of commercial property. The Claremont Development residential community of 137 homes and the Rustic Acres Mall were built over much of the former facility property. Unfortunately, the redeveloped property was built on top of the untreated contaminated soil. On at least one occasion, creosote sludge seeped into a residential basement sump and was pumped out into the storm sewer.

    In the spring of 1998, EPA conducted extensive surface soil sampling to determine whether there was any immediate threat to current residents. This sampling revealed that surface soil at approximately 19 homes had unacceptable levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (material associated with wood treating chemicals).”

  4. I used to live on East Camplain Road. My house was one of those taken down. When we first moved in around 1969 my dad was digging a vegetable garden when he came across a creosote pool with a surface about the size of a large pizza.

      • Anybody see the underground dig behind Midtown Deli? It was there for about a year-a man there told me it was Federal project.Is it possible creosote made it all the way over to there?

        It was great to ice skate on the creosote,smooth as glass !

    • I lived in one of the homes years ago. Whenever we did dig up the yard to plant anything the creosote would come up from the ground and it was hard growing anything. That’s when my father had told me about what that land was used for before they built those homes. Once owned by Johns-Manville and never made to clean up the ground back then. You have to know that they realize what the creosote was and that it caused cancer.

  5. Does anyone remember or have any information on what I believe was an outdoor roller rink – it was on North St between 10th and 11th Aves – it was abandoned and run down when I was a kid in the late 50’s early 60’s I remember playing there – we played baseball and drove go-karts – it was asphalt surface with a curb running all the way around and there was a long narrow building on the property that was boarded up – we got in anyway and it had a counter and storage area for what I believe were skate rentals – anyone else rememer it – if you go to Historic Areals and search for – 5 North 11th ave and zoom in you can see it in the 1956 photo – it disappears after that.

  6. I’m literally days away from going into a contract to purchase one of the new homes on East Camplain. We’ve received paperwork from the EPA saying the soil has been adequately cleaned and that they’ll continue to test it every two years, indefinitely. We’re not concerned since we have proof that the developer excavated 17 feet deep – more than the EPA requires – but we’re still a little hesitant. Given all the clean up that has already happened, and the fact that this develop has jus sold seven of the eight new homes on the block, does anyone who is familiar with the area think we should be terribly concerned? Just curious… Thanks.

    • I’ve lived on Louise Drive for over 20 years now, but have family that has been here since the houses were built. It’s a great family neighborhood, one of my favorites in Manville. The EPA told us that we would have to eat the dirt every day for years to have developed cancer from it, I hope they are right. The only thing I do differently is that I use containers for my garden now, I don’t plant in the ground. Welcome to the neighborhood, which house did you buy?

  7. My cousin sent me the following: “When I lived on Dakota street a number of my friends and I would go ice skating on the creosote ponds located across the railroad tracks from the JM plant. I don’t recall ever skating on the creosote, but in the winter, water would stay on top of the creosote ponds and freeze making it an ideal skating rink. On several occasions, your skate would break thru the ice and end up ankle deep in creosote tar. I also recall going on the tie yard property and climbing all over the ties.”

  8. My Mom used to ice skate there. She also remembers that some of the boys would pick up pieces of the creasote and chew on it like taffy. Nice!

  9. my mother worked at johns-manville spinning raw asbestos on to spools she now 85 and still diggs asbestos out of her hands ,she has it in her lungs.I grew up 2miles from the manville site,went to carnivals on johns-manville land where the old kway was ,swam in the millstone canel,the raritan river.We had well water whats the odds of illness? my mom was 130lbs 1/2010 now its 1/2011 and shes down to 93lbs on oxygen 24/7 i no its just her time cause shes old but maybe she would have had a better last few years if she knew the hazards of working .

  10. Hi, I was born and raised in Manville. In the late 50’s and 60’s it was just “accepted” that it snowed in July. Now we know it was asbestos coming from the industrial machine. We went skating around and on the “Tar Pits”. I graduated in 1965 and never looked back, except for the fact that my Dad and almost everyone I graduated with lost one or both parents and sometimes brothers and sister to the Aspestos that was associated with JM. Manville was a wonderful place to grow up in, if it hadn’t been for the “cancer” that was associated with most of the friends that we knew. Too bad. I hope that Manville can recover and become the all american town it once was. It is a Town awaitng for a recovery, even now.

    Cooky

    • that’s interesting you mentioning the snow in July. My sister would tell me about the asbestos falling from the sky and we used to catch it on our tongues like snowflakes but I don’t remember I guess being that I was just a young tyke then.

  11. The JM dumps were a cool place to ride your bike up and down the hills of asbestos.That is,unless a few JM dump trucks would zoom by and make it snow so bad you had to get the hell out of there !
    I wonder if the cars are still buried under the cap.

  12. Pingback: Manville Shanty Town Fire? | Manville, NJ … Revolution on the Millstone

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