2008-11-14 / Top Stories

MGP Demo Dispels Toxic Trucking Concerns

DEC Responds To Waldbaum's Report
By Nicholas Briano

The trucks that will be transporting the contaminated soil off the former manufactured gas plant site in Rockaway Park will be covered with protective foam, wrapped in plastic, then covered and tied down with a 40-pound tarp. The trucks that will be transporting the contaminated soil off the former manufactured gas plant site in Rockaway Park will be covered with protective foam, wrapped in plastic, then covered and tied down with a 40-pound tarp. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) joined with National Grid last Friday morning on the site of the former manufactured gas plant (MPG) at Beach 108 Street between Beach Channel Drive and the Rockaway Freeway to show community leaders and activists how they would truck out the contaminated soil that will be removed from the site.

Those community leaders specifically invited to the event were present to get a firsthand look at how the dirt will be handled and removed from the peninsula in the wake of some community angst over the plan.

What they learned was that the trucks will be lined with plastic and then filled with the toxic soil. Next, a protective foam will be sprayed over the top of the dirt and the contents will be wrapped tightly in the plastic. Then, the entire load will be covered with a heavy duty 40-pound tarp, which will be secured to the truck.

A view of what the inside of the truck would look like before the soil is wrapped and then covered with tarp prior to being trucked off the peninsula. A view of what the inside of the truck would look like before the soil is wrapped and then covered with tarp prior to being trucked off the peninsula. That procedure is the industry standard, according to National Grid official Tom Campbell, who says they have safely carried out more than 14,000 truckloads of contaminated soil from various communities.

Air monitors will be placed around the site and will be taking readings every 15 minutes, according to officials. The project will be stopped and the original plans will be revisited if the air quality reaches an unsafe level.

The demonstration seemed to provide some level of relief and comfort to the approximately 20 community leaders who attended and who indicated that they realized this was the best transport method available for this project.

Some leaders, however, had another concern about the project.

The plans also include the installation of a 120-foot barrier on the Beach Channel Drive side of the site. The purpose of this is to protect and quarantine the soil from migrating into Jamaica Bay. The barrier is only installed on that side because DEC and National Grid say that there is no need for the barriers to be on the other side of the site. This is primarily because they say the water flows from the Atlantic Ocean towards Jamaica Bay, which limits the migration of the contaminated soil in the opposite direction of this natural water flow. This, according to officials, eliminates any chance that the contaminants in the soil could migrate towards the ocean side of the peninsula, near people's homes.

Skeptical, to say the least, were a few community leaders, who called National Grid "cheap" for not being willing to invest the extra money needed to enclose the entire site with these barriers.

This would be a proactive measure, residents say, that would protect everyone around the site, even the residents on the Rockaway Freeway side of the project, in the event of migration towards their homes. The project will begin this week, but actual excavation and hauling of the soil will not occur for a few more weeks.

DEC spokesperson Arturo Garcia- Costas addressed the allegations made by an independent report commissioned by the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, the owner of Waldbaum's, which states that the site of the popular supermarket was contaminated by migrating soil from the MPG site, just a block away.

"We are well aware of the contamination beneath the shopping center," Garcia-Costas said. "That, however, is not a result of migration, but as a result of off-site dumping of purifier waste."

In other words, the Waldbaum's site was used as a giant landfill for waste produced by manufacturing gas at the site for many years. Garcia-Costas insists that the presence of the soil beneath Waldbaum's is a result of this activity, rather than migration.

Migration is a concern that has the community asking how far the contamination from this site has spread. DEC has said for many years, however, that the soil is contained to the site of the manufactured gas plant only.

DEC would not rule out the possibility though, that they or National Grid could be partially responsible in cleaning up the supermarket site at some later date.

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