2001-10-20 / Front Page

LIPA Renews Work At B. 108 Site, Cleanup Process Complete in 2003

By Howard Schwach

LIPA Renews Work At B. 108 Site,
Cleanup Process Complete in 2003
By Howard Schwach

After telling the thirty-five residents and civic leaders meeting at the Beach Club last Wednesday, "we can’t tell how long it will take to clean up the site until we know what we have to do," Keyspan Senior Vice President for Environmental Engineering Brian McCaffrey announced that work would begin anew on the Beach 108 substation site "as early as Friday, but no later than Monday morning."

That announcement did not satisfy some of the locals in the crowd, but others indicated that they understood that Rockaway needs the electricity from the substation and that they were willing to go along with what experts call a " long and frustrating process" of studies, impact statements, feasibility studies and decisions before the Class 2 Superfund site can be used once again for development.

"We understand we need the electricity coming from the substation and the need to replace a station that was originally built in 1920," said Chamber of Commerce President Liz Sulik. "What I can’t understand is why it will take so long, why you could not have started to study those test borings you made in 1999."

"You should be ashamed of yourselves," community resident Joan Mettler screamed. "You have lied to us and polluted us and now you are going to build on a toxic site and you wanted to do it without informing us."

Most of the crowd was more sanguine about the presentation and the need for LIPA to begin work.

John Chiesa, an engineer who directs the work on the site for LIPA, showed a series of maps dating back to the 1920’s that clearly showed that the portion of the site being used for the new substation was never part of the coal gasification plant that led to the high level of contamination on the site.

"Those maps convinced me that it LIPA should go ahead with its work on the site," one of the locals at the meeting told The Wave. "I really don’t want you to use my name, because some of the lunatics who are opposed to doing anything in Rockaway will take retribution against my business for my saying that."

Chiesa explained that the substation would serve the 78,000 customers west of Beach 60 Street and that there was no "electrical grid" on the peninsula that could provide that electricity should the Beach 108 substation go out of operation.

"It’s like we are at the end of an extension cord," he explained. "If the plug is pulled anywhere along the line, we have no power."

"In addition," Chiesa said, "we have a two percent growth each year in demand – new computers, new homes, expansions, central air conditioning – all add to the load."

"For those reasons," he adds, "we cannot take the old substation off line until we shift its load to the new substation."

He did promise that a company arborist would work with experts in the community to plant trees and shrubbery that would mask the station from Beach Channel Drive.

According to the experts at the meeting, Federal law requires a specific process for cleaning of the site. That process will begin once the new substation is on line sometime next year. Because of the required steps, the process often takes years to complete.

Robert Schick, Chief of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) MGP Remedial Section, laid out the necessary steps.

"The first step is a remedial investigation of the site," Schick says. The draft of that document should be done by mid-November. That tells us what is on the site. We can accept what they tell us or send them back for more information. Then there is a period for the public to comment on the investigation’s findings. That comment period should come in April of next year. After that, LIPA has to complete a Feasibility Study that provides DEC with a number of options for remediating the problems on the site. We will meet with the Keyspan people and the LIPA people to discuss the options and make sure there are no others that they missed. After we accept the report then the companies have to go ahead and do the work that we approved to be done."

"This is a long and often frustrating process," Schick says. "It is made even more frustrating when the city will not give us access to land along the bayfront on the north side of Beach Channel Drive that we have to study as well."

Keyspan Energy has provided a telephone hotline number for residents who want updates or have a question about the process. That hotline number is 403-3400.

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