Fuel Odor Sparks Evacuation At Health Facilities
Construction work at Arverne By the Sea triggered the evacuation of two health facilities last Friday when workers and patients were alarmed by a strong odor released as four petroleum storage tanks were unearthed.
Witnesses said the odor of “very dirty oil fumes” emanating from the Beach 66 Street construction site filled the air at the Addabbo Family Health Center, 67-10 Rockaway Beach Boulevard and the WIC Mental Health Building, 190 Beach 68 Street, at about 9:45 a.m.
Workers and patients at the facilities were sickened and became lightheaded, according to Cecilia Salgado, an executive assistant at the Addabbo Center. “We knew right away that it was coming from [the neighboring ABTS construction area],” Salgado said.
Firefighters were called and Addabbo Center Medical Director Alfonso Chan ordered both facilities – about 150 people – evacuated at about 10:30 a.m., according to Salgado. A spokesperson for the FDNY said four rigs and Hazardous Materials Technicians responded and took air quality readings at the site, but “came up with nothing.”
One female security guard was taken to Peninsula Hospital Center after she complained of wheezing and dizziness, Salgado said.
Gerard Romski, the ABTS site manager for developers Benjamin Beechwood, said the release of the odor was “a relatively common occurrence” when older storage tanks are removed from the ground. “Because the winds were blowing in a southwest direction at the time of removal the odor was detected in the Addabbo Center. Professionals tested the air and found no danger,” he said.
Romski also pointed out that ABTS had the proper permits to perform the excavation and was working under the “watchful eye” of several city and state agencies. Gabrielle Done, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said the developers had indeed registered the job and were authorized to remove four 550-gallon petroleum storage tanks at the site. Workers from the DEC Petroleum Reduction Unit took ground water and soil samples at the site to determine if remediation was necessary, Done said. The results are expected in about a month.
Both health centers reopened on Saturday, one day after the odor incident. Romski said work would continue at the construction site this week “under optimal wind conditions.”