2003-01-18 / Columnists

Simon Says….

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon,
Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B
Simon Says…. From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon,
Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Our next trip to Atlantic City will be on Saturday, February 8. The cost is $28 with $17 returned. We leave at 5:30 p.m. and return at 8 a.m. We have 8 1/2 hours to enjoy Trump Marina. Special thanks to Rockaway Bagels for refreshments. Reservations are a must.

On Wednesday evening the LIPA Keyspan toxic waste site was discussed at a public meeting. This site was an old gas plant at Beach 108 Street and Beach Channel Drive. The meeting opened up by a warm address by Robert W. Schick, P.E., Chief, MGP Remedial Section, NYSDEC and then went into a Powerpoint slide show with Douglas K. MacNeal, Environmental Engineer, NYSDEC. The Powerpoint display showed how the gas production began at the site in the 1880s and continued to the mid-1950s, through the expansions and storage capability and finally into 1998 when the site was added to the State's Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites (registry) as a class 2 site. That is where we are today. What are the remedial investigation and interim remedial measures to be taken at the LILCO Rockaway Park Site No.: 2-41-029? Many people feel many different ways. Rockaway residents came to talk about their concerns about the superfund site. A family from 108th Street, directly south of the site, wondered if they were able to plant a vegetable garden—Stephanie Selmer a Research Scientist from the Bureau of Environmental Exposure of the NYS Department of Health answered yes; however could not answer the most important question that if contaminated by toxins from the site, what were the effects. State Senator Malcolm Smith has taken on a research study on cancer clusters. The results of the Senator's study will be released from his office soon. Community Activist, Joe Hartigan researched and suggested a remedial plan to take the contaminated soil out of the area, place it on a barge and put it in a landfill in Bayonne, New Jersey who already has agreed to take the soil without any problems. Jim Vignato, a resident from Beach 118th Street stressed concern to cover the entire 9.5 acres of land and place a sealant directly on top of the toxic ground cover. Residents from Seaside complained about its ugly look for a hundred years. Barbara Kilfoil wanted to complain about the lights going out on Christmas Day; however, no LIPA representative was present at the meeting. Ginger Smith felt strongly and argued with the Robert Schick, P.E., Chief, MGP Remedial Section of NYSDEC, stating that Fall 2003 was too long of a time period for the remedial plan to be completed, that it should come into the Assemblywoman's office sooner than six months time and not short of another year. She reminded the engineer that this was suppose to be a 5-year plan...we are 4 years into this and nothing has been one. The community stressed that they wanted the area cleaned with no potential hazards of diverse effects. I also call out to Audrey Pheffer, our Assemblywoman, to please have an oncologist take a look at the health exposures the toxins present. The investigation continues and the site is hosting a 'washing machine' effect with chemicals moving to the south and to the west. The DEC expects to have a remedial plan presented to the Assemblywoman and the Rockaway community by Fall 2003. The NYSDEC will keep us informed throughout the remedial program. More information about this topic can be found on: NYSDECs MGP program, go to the MGP website at http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/der/mgp/index.html. I urge your attendance at the next meeting, which will be mentioned in my column in the future.

On Thursday evening the Good Government Regular Democratic club held a public meeting at which community members were able to present long standing problems to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Commissioner Chris Ward, who was unable to attend due to illness in his family, was represented by the Assistant Commissioner for Intergovernmental Relations, Mark Lanaghan. Lanaghan is a long time DEP official who was familiar with many of the questions raised.

Lanaghan told us that community boards, elected officials and political clubs help the DEP by passing on complaints and service requests to that the department can respond. Rockaway is a difficult area for the DEP because it does not have a complete storm sewer system and it may take another generation to get the job done.

The DEP is in charge of our water supply, sewer systems, enforcement of air quality and noise laws and local environmental hazards. DEP is currently building a billion dollar water filtration plan for the Croton water system where economic development has increased pollution flowing into the system. The DEP is getting advice from the Army Corps of Engineers on protecting our whole water supply system from terrorist attack.

The current city financial problems should not affect DEP. All funds for DEP come from our water and sewer payments. Bills rise when the cost of maintaining the water and sewer system rise. this money may not be used for any other purpose.

We asked about the incident last year when the DEP dumped large amounts of raw sewage into Jamaica Bay from the 26th Ward plant in Brooklyn. Lanaghan told us that a major interceptor pipe had to be replaced in the plant and they had no other choice. He said their action had the approval of state and federal authorities.

We asked why our local Jamaica Bay water pollution plant was not covered to prevent the terrible odors that we often suffer from. Lanaghan told us that odor is not specifically regulated by state and federal law. He said that hydrogen sulfide H2S monitors at the North River plant in Manhattan helped keep staff aware of any problems with the operation of their system. He suggested we discuss improvements of our local plant with the local supervisor.

A resident of Beach 139 Street recounted her long and frustrating battle to get DEP to take responsibility for an apparent mistake they made in removing a tidal gate at the foot of Beach 139 Street at the bay. At high tides raw sewage back up in her basement. She has kept careful notes of all her conversations with city employees and employees of a construction company involved. Lanaghan promised that an inspector would be sent out to check the situation and report back.

Two complaints concerning storm and sanitary sewer problems in the McBride Street and Mott Avenue section of Far Rockaway, The DEP promised to find out why they have been unable to clear the storm sewers and allow a lake to block traffic and soak pedestrians on Mott Avenue.

We found Mark Lanaghan to be knowledgeable and concerned. We expect DEP to come back with solutions to the problems brought to their attention.


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