2009-04-17 / Top Stories

NYSDEC Rules National Grid In MGP Compliance

By Nicholas Briano

The tent that will host all on-site excavations is nearly complete and digging is expected to begin in the next two weeks. The tent that will host all on-site excavations is nearly complete and digging is expected to begin in the next two weeks. The latest gathering of community leaders convened this week at Peninsula library to discuss accusations from a group of residents that National Grid is violating various safety and environmental protocols while excavating the manufactured gas plant in Rockaway Park.

The group, the Rockaway Initiative, accused National Grid, which is responsible for the cleanup of the contaminated soil at the Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Freeway site, of putting the community in danger by not following the protocol outlined in the original remediation plans.

These accusations, made public two weeks ago, were reviewed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the agency which oversees all work activity done by National Grid, and found the activity compliant with work plans and regulations. The Rockaway Initiative, which is a group consisting of just two area residents, Noreen Ellis and Ronald Joseph, said that the workers at the site were not wearing hazmat suits and that digging is occurring in the open air, something that National Grid promised it wouldn't do. Other concerns included open trenches of contaminated soil and the lack of dust control.

But NYSDEC's findings say otherwise and that the outdoor digging being referred to is part of the work plans and is not required to take place in the enclosed tent that has been erected on site. The group also claimed to have video footage of the work, but refused to show officials. The sole justification for this was that they believe National Grid and NYSDEC are lying to them. "Everything you are telling us is a bold faced lie," Joseph said.

Seven air monitors are placed around the site and any work will cease, according to NYSDEC, if air levels reach contaminated and hazardous levels. The state agency further says that the dust is controlled primarily by keeping the ground wet and that odors are being controlled by protective foam.

National Grid Project Manager Tom Campbell says that construction of the massive tent visible when passing by the site is near completion and will allow excavation to commence in the upcoming weeks. All excavation will take place inside the tent measuring 188 feet by 194 feet, and rising 45 feet high. It is aluminum-framed and covered in an extra durable PVC fabric. Trucks will be loaded inside the tent and the dirt, once loaded into 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.

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