2008-11-07 / Front Page

Toxic Waste Under Waldbaum's?

By Howard Schwach

The mix of toxic metals and chemicals that made the former manufactured gas plant at the former LILCO site on Beach Channel Drive at Beach 108 Street, once called a "Toxic Washing Machine" by Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials, has migrated across the street to the shopping center that houses the Waldbaum's Supermarket and other stores, a May of 2003 report shows.

The former MGP site was placed on the official list of toxic sites more than 15 years ago, and DEC officials are working with National Grid, the present owners of the site, to remediate the toxic site by trucking out the contaminated soil. The DEC has long maintained that the site's toxic soil has been contained to that site.

The 2003 report, however, which was prepared for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company by Whitestone Associates, a leading environmental investigator, says that there are "contaminants consistent with coal, coal tar or products and wastes from coal gasification plants" under the soil beneath the buildings that house not only Waldbaum's, but Ciro's Pizza, a dry cleaner and Citibank.

The report, dated May 12, 2003 and signed by Keith Tockman, who is identified as a professional geologist, states that the contaminants were found in test wells dug in the southeastern corner of the Waldbaum's property.

The report says that the tests found that the levels of such substances as trichloroethylene, naphtha and acenaphthylene exceeded acceptable levels and that traces of ethyl benzene and naphthalene were found at the site as well.

The report came to light this week when Danny Ruscillo, the president of the 100 Precinct Community Council, received the documents as part of a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the DEC.

A spokesperson for the DEC told The Wave on Wednesday that it was aware of the investigation and of the presence of contaminants on the Waldbaum's site.

"We have done many test borings in that area as part of the remediation of the former LILCO site," the spokesperson said. "We have identified the problems, but are not sure that they are a problem of migration from the site. More likely, they are part of the landfill that was put in there as part of building up the land for development."

She added, however, that the work going on across the street at the main site does not foreclose the possibility that National Grid would be made to clean up the supermarket site at some later date.

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