2003-09-19 / Community

Toxin Clean-Up Moves Along Slowly

By Brian Magoolaghan
Toxin Clean-Up Moves Along Slowly By Brian Magoolaghan

Residents will soon be asked what they would like see built, one day, after a large stretch of toxic property on Rockaway’s western half is finally cleaned up.

KeySpan Energy, the owner of the polluted land south of Beach Channel Drive between Beach 108-110 Streets, will send a remediation (clean-up) proposal to the state in the coming months. Because the future use of the land determines the extent to which it must be cleaned, the public will be asked to endorse a plan for commercial, residential or other use.

Commercial development is the favored choice, so far, according to Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Liz Sulik. Both said the property, which is separated from the water treatment plant by 108 Street, would not be a logical place to build homes.

At a recent meeting between KeySpan and community representatives the energy company reiterated that they are dedicated to returning the property to "productive use" within the next few years. Their next step is to get public comment, specify a remediation method and communicate both to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), according to KeySpan spokesperson Bonnie Habyan.

Gaska advised the KeySpan representatives, at the meeting, that it would take at least 60 days for the community board to vote on the issue, and urged them to contact his office immediately. KeySpan hasn’t acted yet, according to Gaska, who added that the board would not drastically alter their schedule, because it might create the impression that an approval had been "pushed through."

In the meantime the DEC has asked for some additional testing at the site, according to the KeySpan representatives.

What remains to be seen is what the DEC will require of KeySpan. Although the company’s representatives were confident that there was a difference in remediation standards, based on the plans for future use, they said they had no idea what the difference was. Others think that serious consideration should be given to a thorough site remediation.

"The property has to be cleaned up, and it should be cleaned up equally as well," Sulik said. But until the difference in standards is understood, in terms of intrusiveness, time and money, it is hard to know what decision is right for Rockaway. Even if commercial development seems to be in the property’s future, it could still make sense to spend extra dollars to clean the property to residential standards, Gaska said. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who hosted last week’s meeting, said that if the site were not cleaned to the highest standard, people would ask about what is being left behind.

The Rockaway Park Gas Plant was first labeled a polluted "superfund" site in 1988. It was formerly used for Manufactured Gas Production (MGP). According to GasTechnology.org, these sites are typically contaminated with a long list of toxic substances.

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