National Grid Provides MGP Update
Community leaders met this week with representatives from National Grid to discuss the ongoing clean-up plans for the former coal gasification plant in Rockaway Park. National Grid has agreed to meet with members of Community Board 14, elected officials and other community leaders on a periodic basis to provide updates and discuss any questions or concerns that may arise during the 16-month procedure.
The first meeting since commencement of the project was held on Tuesday at Community Board 14's office in Far Rockaway. Several issues were brought to the attention of the National Grid representatives. Some people in the area may have noticed that digging was occurring on the site. This preliminary stage of the project involved no remediation. Rather, the digging was to search for an active power line to confirm its location, according to National Grid project representative Tom Campbell.
"The power line is off the site, but it's the first thing we had to make sure of," he said. "We had to make sure that the underground line did not wander onto the site, so we used a soft dig technology that enabled us to confirm the location of the line." Other than that, Campbell says not much has been done since the last meeting in November. All work done is preparatory, including the delivery of the barrier walls that will be installed along the Beach Channel Drive side of the site, parallel to the excavation.
In addition to the barrier walls, approximately 3,000 cubic yards of clean fill, which will be used to top off the excavation, have been delivered. That is the large mound of covered dirt visible when driving past the site at Beach 108 Street and Beach Channel Drive. Lastly, air monitors have been placed on the site and are already recording air quality levels.
National Grid says there will be a two week break for the holidays. Preparatory work resumes on January 5, before digging begins. Remediation and excavation is scheduled to begin in early February, according to Campbell.
Trucks will be removing the contaminated soil Monday through Friday from the hours of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Campbell estimates as many as six trucks per hour will be leaving the peninsula.
Community leaders, however, were concerned about air quality levels in and around the site. Campbell says that it is unlikely that air quality levels will become life threatening and hazardous to the public. However, local officials insist that accidents can happen, and therefore, a plan should be in place.
Campbell claims that the only time air quality levels are expected to go up is when dust is occasionally kicked up from the trucks leaving the site. The project representative states that National Grid plans to keep the ground moist, which would limit the dust blown into the air.
"When the truck drives over the site, is when they kick up dust, which seems to be the biggest problem on most of our other remediation sites," Campbell said. "On the site we have built a road of clean stone which will help limit dust." Community leaders, however, still believe a plan should be in place to notify them, so they can relay that information to any concerned members of the community. "I think we need to develop a protocol where you notify, perhaps, the precincts, schools, community board. Let's hope we never have to do it, which we probably won't, but just in case," CB 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said. "Then when the public calls us we could tell them what is going on."
Additional suggestions made by community officials included the placement of air monitors around area schools, Beach Channel High School, Scholars' Academy and P.S. 225. Also it was agreed last month during the demonstration at the site that project officials would agree to an emergency procedure test run with Peninsula Hospital Center should anyone be exposed to the contamination at a life threatening level. National Grid says they still plan to execute that practice run before excavation begins.
Residents who want more information on the remediation plans at the site can visit www.Rockawaypark mgpsite.com where National Grid says they will provide weekly updates every Monday morning about the status of the project. A telephone hotline has also been established to address additional questions and concerns. The phone number is 718-403-3400.