2008-05-23 / Editorial/Opinion

It's My Turn

By Joan Mettler

Two weeks ago, while driving east on Beach Channel Drive (BCD) from Beach 116 Street, I glanced at the seemingly abandoned property between Beach 108 Street and Beach 112 Street adjacent to the LIPA substation and thought, "What a disgrace!" After all, the site is one of only two gateways to the west end of the peninsula.

To get up to speed with the history of that tract of land, it was originally part of Jamaica Bay, then taken by the government as part of a project that included the building on BCD. The filledin area south of the Drive became a coal gasification plant. And, today it lies fallow for all the toxic chemicals contaminating the soil.

The land became the property of LILCO (LIPA) and now belongs to National Grid (Brooklyn Union Gas/ Keyspan) save for the choice location on the corner of BCD and Beach 112 Street. How, might one ask, did then, LILCO, get permission to move its substation from Beach 108 Street and BCD to Beach 112 Street and the Drive on a toxic waste site with all the digging and sinking of creosote-laiden carcinogenic piling into the toxic ground? The move did not go unchallenged.

Dutifully, LILCO and the DEC presented a group of concerned local residents with a map of the entire site detailing the clean and the toxic parts of the acreage proclaiming that Beach 112 Street corner, the very same corner needed by LILCO for its upgraded substation, the only "clean" portion of the entire site. Skeptical of the report, locals clearly recalled the horror of the excavation for the Mobile site across the street from this "clean site" when workers collapsed from the toxicity of the chemicals unleashed during the digging for the placement of the gasoline tanks. That the Mobil land in direct line and only a spit away from the, then proposed, substation was so contaminated yet the land a few yards away was clean, was judged by locals as nothing short of a miracle. The group of locals picketed the site protesting the findings of the DEC to no avail. LILCO dug and drove pilings deep into the "clean" ground and the stench that filled the air was putrid, at the least, and toxic to those who cared.

Currently, National Grid plans to clean up the site it owns (everything but the substation), divide it in two parcels and market it for sale and development. A phone call was placed to Tom Campbell, National Grid Project Manager for details of the clean-up. The following information was ascertained:

The reclamation project will commence this summer and will take 18 months to complete. The land will be enclosed in a bubble (a la The Wall Street Racquet Club) and the air monitored and controlled for safety. Workers in Haz-mat suits will dig eight feet down the entire site loading the toxic soil and debris onto open trucks which will be sprayed with deodorizing foam and covered with tarps. Once loaded, the trucks will proceed west on BCD, over the Marine Parkway Bridge, through populated Brooklyn neighborhoods to Delaware and Pennsylvania sanitization plants for treatment. Once excavated, the land facing BCD will be lined with a steel barrier to prevent further leeching of toxic waste into the bay. Prior to refilling the site, an air-vent system will be installed to circulate the underground air. The prospect of hundreds of open trucks driving through our neighborhood loaded with toxic waste was, and is, inane necessitating further investigation.

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