2009-01-23 / Columnists

It's My Turn

National Grid, Friend or Foe?
By R.M Joseph Civic Activist

As I peer out of my bedroom window at the huge construction site growing on what was once the Rockaway Park Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP), I can't help but wonder if this massive two-year remediation is for the betterment or to the detriment of our community. Many are not aware that the MGP, that vacant parcel of land on Beach Channel Drive east of Waldbaum's, is a time bomb set to detonate in four weeks. The trigger will be National Grid's, Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) sanctioned, site excavation. The ground beneath the site contains hazardous wastes, including cyanide and a number of carcinogens, capable of causing death.

The wastes will be removed via excavation, causing them to explode into our atmosphere; creating health hazards, lower property values, and a depressed local economy. Who wants to purchase a home, shop for goods and services, or vacation in an area that poses substantial health risks?

Despite National Grid's Bay Shore MGP cleanup, which utilizes new technologies that treat wastes by injecting biodegradable solutions into the ground, an antiquated excavation technique will be implemented in Rockaway. The new technology can clean contaminated groundwater and soil below homes. Excavation can only be performed in wide-open spaces, leaves some contaminated soil behind, and cannot clean groundwater. Why are we the victims of this substandard cleanup effort? Are our lives worth any less than our neighbors in Suffolk County? To further exacerbate the problem, National Grid's documents confirm that contaminants are migrating off-Site to surrounding areas, including Jamaica Bay. Yet this 2009 excavation is based upon a 2002 investigation conducted to determine the location of the contaminants. The NYSDEC recently stumbled upon a new area of contamination under Walbaum's, and has designated it the Belle Harbor Site.

Despite knowledge of the migration, National Grid has denied requests for an updated survey to ascertain how much farther the contaminants have spread since 2002.

National Grid has listed receptors within a ½ mile radius of the site. These receptors are persons susceptible to the health hazards associated with the wastes and include students at PS 225, Scholars' Academy, Stella Maris, and Beach Channel HS. If your children attend these institutions, you are a stakeholder in this matter.

If you shop at Walbaums or on Beach 116 Street; commute on the "Shuttle" at the Beach 116 or Beach 108 Street stations; or live in the vicinity of Beach Channel Drive from Beach 108 Street to the Marine Parkway Bridge, the designated truck route for transporting the contaminants, you are a stakeholder in this matter. National Grid's intent to control dust along the truck route by watering down the roadways, confirms that contaminants can escape from the allegedly sealed trucks.

National Grid's November 2008 Remedial Design Report states: "Community officials and stakeholders have been contacted during the development of the remedial design for input on community related issues in order to determine the need for measures to mitigate potential disruptions and perceived adverse impacts to the community." How many of us stakeholders have been contacted.

National Grid's Citizen Participation Plan mandates the establishment of a contact list, and states: "Information newsletters will be prepared and distributed to the contact list." Here National Grid, to my surprise, is not lying. The only problem is that the contact list entitled "Identification of Affected and/or Interested Parties" only lists five government officials, six community groups, and the Wave. This is a prime example of how the truth has been manipulated to mislead the community into believing that National Grid is a friend of the Rockaways.

It is time that we unite and tell big business "We're mad as hell and won't take it anymore."

I summon every individual to call our elected officials and request that an injunction be filed in order to stave off National Grid's detonation of the site next month. I urge you to email rockawaymgp@gmail.com to obtain information on our soon to be launched community website. There, you'll be able to obtain a Contact List of the National Grid/NYSDEC personnel heading up this assault on our community.

You may also obtain a list of important links to the National Grid/NYSDEC websites, among others, on which you may learn more about the project and the health hazards associated therewith.

Once you've obtained the particulars in this matter, I am certain you will be outraged. We are compiling quotes from the numerous reports, including citations to their location in the respective reports.

This will allow you to verify the contents of our text, but more importantly it will enlighten the community as to the reckless an negligent manner in which National Grid/ NYSDEC intends to deal with our community.

After reviewing our compilation, you can ask yourselves: Is National Grid our friend or foe?

You be the judge!!

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