2008-10-10 / Top Stories

Meeting On Tap For MGP Site

By Nicholas Briano

The project has been talked about for more than ten years and was finally slated to get underway last month.

After an abundance of resident complaints, at a public hearing in August, about the way the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

DEC) was going about removing and transporting the toxic soil from the former Manufactured Gas Plant on Beach Channel Drive, the DEC and National Grid, the owner of the site, have delayed the start of the decontamination.

The project was delayed, officials say, to provide the public with another opportunity to voice its displeasure and concerns, particularly about the method to be used to decontaminate the site.

That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 15, at 6:30 p.m. inside Scholars' Academy, located at 320 Beach 104 Street. Representatives from National Grid and DEC will be present.

According to a DEC official, the $36 million cleanup of the toxic and abandoned former coal gasification plant that has stood at Beach Channel Drive between Beach 108 Street and Beach 112 Street for nearly a century has no definite start date anymore.

"There is not a firm start date, but if no new impediments are revealed, the company will be able to start the cleanup work as soon as possible," DEC spokesperson, Arturo Garcia-Costas said.

In that case, the proposed plan would begin with the excavation to the depth of eight feet of the toxic soil followed by the capping off of the site with two feet of sand and gravel. According to DEC and National Grid, this would eliminate any environmental or health hazards to the community and surrounding Jamaica Bay.

However, the main issue of concern with residents was the method by which the soil was to be removed from the peninsula. The removal process is slated to include digging inside a movable temporary tent, where the trucks would also be loaded. Once loaded, the trucks will be sealed off at the top with white foam to prevent the dirt from getting into the air while in transit through the streets of Rockaway. The dirt will also be covered with a thick plastic tarp.

As digging is completed in a particular section of the site, the tent will then be moved to cover another section for excavation.

Experts for National Grid estimate that a maximum of six trucks per hour will haul the toxic dirt off the peninsula to out-of-state disposal facilities. The excavating process, if done in this manner, will take approximately 16 months to remove an estimated 88,000 cubic yards of tainted soil.

The trucks will be decontaminated upon arrival at the disposal site before they make the trip back to Rockaway. All of the work will take place between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., in an attempt to keep the interference with traffic on the peninsula to a minimum, officials say.

The upcoming meeting will once again be centered on this excavation method, according to DEC.

"DEC explored questions raised at the first public meeting and will present its findings at this upcoming meeting. The primary subject of those questions was transport of the excavated material from the site," Garcia-Costas said.

DEC and National Grid also plan to tell people, once again, why the proposed method is the only feasible option for removing the soil.

In a mailing sent to Rockaway Park residents they cite several reasons why barging, a popular alternative amongst the opposition, is not a feasible option.

Reasons cited by DEC included insufficient space to load a barge, the time consuming process of loading, and major traffic disruption patterns.

Despite these reasons there are members of the community who think that the safety measures are not safe enough. A recent report from DEC claims it will have the site completely decontaminated by the spring of 2010, assuming there are no more delays in the project.

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