2004-05-07 / Front Page

KeySpan Report On Toxic Site Set for Early Summer

Four Years Since Site Placed On Superfund List
By Howard Schwach

KeySpan Report On Toxic Site Set for Early Summer
Four Years Since Site Placed On Superfund List


The portion of the former LILCO MGP site that once housed an electrical substation is one of four areas in the site that contain toxic chemicals. KeySpan Energy and the Department of Environmental Conservation are moving through a process that will eventually lead to the cleaning of the site. The process has now been going on for four years.The portion of the former LILCO MGP site that once housed an electrical substation is one of four areas in the site that contain toxic chemicals. KeySpan Energy and the Department of Environmental Conservation are moving through a process that will eventually lead to the cleaning of the site. The process has now been going on for four years.

By Howard Schwach

For more than 70 years, from the late 1880's until the mid-1950's, the large piece of land that borders Beach Channel Drive from Beach 108 Street to Beach 110 Street was used by the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) to produce gas from coal.

For those 70 years, the toxic residue of that gasification process despoiled the soil.

In 1998, the site was added to the State's Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites as a "Class II" site. Class II sites are defined as those "that pose a significant threat to the public health or environment and that require remedial action."

That was nearly four years ago. During that time, KeySpan, the energy company that bought LILCO's capacity when the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) was created, has been involved in the process of cleaning up the site and restoring it to the community for commercial development.

In January of last year, Ted Lessing, a KeySpan engineer, told a community meeting that the site is "a toxic washing machine" that includes such deadly chemicals as benzene, cyanide, tar, toluene and others.

According to Lessing, there was no public health danger to Rockaway residents even though it appeared as though the chemicals seemed to be migrating to the strip of land between Beach Channel Drive and the Jamaica Bay.

Despite the fact that four years have already passed, those same KeySpan engineers and officials now are saying that it may take another year or two before the cleanup actually begins.

Thomas DeJesu is the Director of Government and Regulatory Relations for KeySpan. At a recent meeting that was held in the offices of Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, he said, "Our final Site Investigation Report was sent to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in January. In that report we answered some of the back and forth material that the DEC had asked us about. It was not significantly different than the one we submitted to them in 2002. It simply refined the width and the depth of the investigation."

DeJesu said that the investigation found four areas that contained "source material." That was about what he expected, he said. Those areas include the old gas works, the area of the old gas holder, the area where the old substation was just removed and the skimming basin in the center of the site. In addition, he said, there is a plume of source material that has migrated to the northeast, towards the area of the present water treatment plant and the grass between the boulevard and the bay.

"We don't see any ecological problem arising from that plume," he added."

The Feasibility Study on the site is now being studied by KeySpan. That report and its supporting documents are literally thousands of pages long and will take, according to DeJesu, "some time to review."

The DEC will then draw up a Preliminary Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) and make recommendations to KeySpan.

Once that PRAP is completed and submitted, a 30-day comment period is required.

At that time, sometime in late June or early to mid-July, Kepspan will hold a community meeting in Rockaway to address the PRAP.

After the PRAP is approved, then the design phase of the remedial plan begins.

According to experts in environmental issues, that design phase and the cleanup could take up to two years.


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