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International Journal of Coal Geology


From the 1850's until the 1960's, the Central Railroad of New Jersey was among several major railways shipping anthracite and bituminous coal to the New York City area, transferring coal from railcar to barge at its extensive rail yard and port facility in Jersey City. The 490 ha Liberty State Park was developed on the site after the rail yard closed, but a ca. 100 ha brownfield zone within the park remains off limits to visitors pending future remediation. As part of an environmental forensic and industrial archeological investigation of this zone, the present study characterizes anthracite and bituminous coal particles present in abundance in the soil by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS). A simple pretreatment procedure employing density separation improved the analytical results. This detailed information about the nature of contaminants at the site will help to inform the remediation effort in the public interest.



  • Legacy coal contamination is widespread in the soils of an unremediated restricted area within Liberty State Park (New Jersey, USA), formerly a major rail yard and port for coal shipment.
  • The coal particles in the soil are mostly of anthracite rank, the low PAH content of which reduces the potential environmental hazard at this brownfield site.
  • PAH-rich bituminous coal particles, while less abundant, may be of greater environmental concern, although the degree of bioavailability of their constituent PAHs must be considered.
  • Analysis of soil components by pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) after a preparative density separation procedure is shown to an effective environmental forensics tool.