2008-07-25 / Top Stories

Angry Residents Voice Decon Displeasure

By Nicholas Briano

The National Grid site, a former LILCO coal gasification plant, on Beach Channel Drive at Beach 108 Street in Rockaway Park has been a topic of debate for more than eight years, and with a plan finally in place to decontaminate the site, about 25 vocal residents showed up at a meeting to voice their displeasure over the process.

At a town hall meeting held at Beach Channel High School on Wednesday night, hosted by Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, the residents showed up to receive a presentation from National Grid and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The majority of locals present disagreed with just about everything that was presented.

Starting in September, National Grid and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) plan to begin a 16-month, $36 million process that they claim will rid Rock- -away Park of contaminated dirt and chemicals from the former coal gasification plant.

However, residents were upset, led by Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, who insisted to officials that barging the contaminated dirt off the peninsula is the only option to ensure the public's safety.

"You are not considering the people who live here in your plan," Simon screamed. "When you notify every community who will be having toxic chemicals trucked through their communities, then come back and tell me barging is not an option!"

Other residents were upset about the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday hours of operation. They believe working at night is better.

"I am concerned because there are a lot of kids playing in schoolyards during the day," John Larkin said. "This community demands, not asks, that this gets done at night because we should be able to decide what we want going through our neighborhood."

The general consensus of the crowd was to delay the project and reevaluate the possibilities. The plan calls for eight feet of excavation with a two-foot cap of sand and gravel. Project officials believe that removing the eight feet of soil will eliminate toxic threats to the area or to the ecology of Jamaica Bay. To ensure public safety, National Grid says, digging and loading of the trucks will take place in a large temporary tent. Trucks will be sealed off at the top with white foam to prevent the dirt from getting into the air and covered in heavy-duty tarp, while in transit through local streets.

One community activist, Joan Mettler, said that she is concerned about spillage, even with the sealant on top.

"The trucks should be completely enclosed and not sealed with jelly foam," she said skeptically. "If the truck should overturn and crash it would spill everywhere."

Several of the residents at the meeting believed that the best options have not been explored and want the plan stopped. Officials say, however, that delaying the project will keep the toxic chemicals in the area for even longer until an option satisfactory to Rockaway residents becomes available.

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