August 27, 2008

Human Skull Turns Up in Landfill ; Search Goes on at Overpeck


Police will resume searching through a giant pile of fill at Overpeck County Park today, a day after construction workers discovered a human skull amid the soil.

The skull appears to have been brought into the site along with thousands of truckloads of dredged sediment material taken from the bed of a body of water to be used to cap the former Overpeck landfill as part of a $45 million project.

Workers for Joseph M. Sanzari Construction, a subcontractor, found the skull in an enormous 50,000-cubic-yard pile of dredge, said Jim Johnston, the president of PMK Group, which is overseeing the project.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said his office is working to determine the identity of the person, as well as the circumstances surrounding his or her death.

Molinelli said he has been told that the dredge came from the Hudson River. County police and investigators from the Prosecutor's Office spent Monday afternoon searching the massive pile for additional remains, but none were found.

Johnston said his company was reviewing records to determine when the fill was brought to the site and where it came from. He said the Hudson was a possibility but that it is still too early to know for sure.

He said he is "relatively certain" that the skull was brought into the site, given its location in the dredge pile.

The site, which includes parts of Ridgefield Park and Teaneck, is closed to the public. At the construction entrance off Challenger Drive in Ridgefield Park early Monday afternoon, workers were aware of the discovery but would not comment.

One worker called out to another who had driven from the area where the skull was uncovered, "What did you find, Jimmy Hoffa?" in a reference to the former union boss whose body has famously never been found.

The landfill project, which began in earnest in 2005, is scheduled to be completed by September 2009, according to a court- imposed deadline.

The decades-old garbage dump will be capped with 2 to 4 feet of dredge and topped with a new 120-acre park.

The park will include two baseball fields, two soccer fields, six tennis courts, an amphitheater, a boat launch, a lawn and trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Ridgefield Park and Teaneck ceded control of the land to the county in 1951 for the creation of a major new park. But the county used the site to build a landfill, which continued to accept garbage until 1975.


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