2006-02-24 / Editorial/Opinion

Past Time To Clean Up Former LILCO Site

In September of 1998, more than seven years ago, the former Long Island Lighting Company Manufactured Gas Plan at Beach 108 Street and Beach Channel Drive was designated as a Class II Inactive Waste Site. By definition, the site was then “a danger to public health and the environment.” In August of 1999, the community met under the aegis of Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer to get updates on the clean-up effort and to discuss the best way for KeySpan Energy, the firm that “inherited” the site when LILCO disappeared, to remediate the toxic site. Those meetings went on for a long time. At one point, a KeySpan engineer called the site a “toxic washing machine.” It was clear that something had to be done to clean it and make it into a site that would be useful to the community. In October of 2000, company officials said that a mandated study of the environmental impact of the site on the community was completed and that a final report would be sent to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), responsible for monitoring the cleanup, by January of 2001. In 2002, with the DEC’s permission, a new substation was built on a portion of the site that was reportedly toxin-free. A final remedial plan for the site that would lead to its cleanup was scheduled for June of 2004. In August of 2004, the DEC endorsed a $30 million plan to clean up the site. The plan proposed to excavate the toxic material to eight feet below ground level and to install barriers at various levels to keep material from leaching into the bay or into nearby community facilities. At that time, KeySpan engineers said that the cleanup would take “two to two and a half years.” And, the company said, the site would be completely ready for the community to use once again by 2009. That was nearly two years ago, and the community has not heard a word since from either KeySpan or the DEC on what is being done to actually clean up the toxic waste on the site. It is obvious to anybody who drives by that nothing has yet been done despite the fact that an expeditious cleanup was promised. We have to wonder why. It is possible we suppose, that the inaction on the part of KeySpan has something to do with the fact that the company is being shopped around to foreign investors. We would have hoped, however, that the DEC would have kept the company on track. The site has been a potential health hazard for more than 100 years. We have known about that fact for more than seven years. It is time to get the job done.

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