2009-05-22 / Top Stories

Excavation Suspended At National Grid MGP Site

By Nicholas Briano

The trucks, which leave the site several times a day with contaminated soil failed to obtain the proper permits to cross the Marine Parkway Bridge with loaded trucks. The trucks, which leave the site several times a day with contaminated soil failed to obtain the proper permits to cross the Marine Parkway Bridge with loaded trucks. Excavation work at the National Grid owned former manufactured gas plant site in Rockaway Park has been temporarily suspended for failing to obtain the proper trucking permits to cross the Marine Parkway Bridge, according to officials.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is responsible for the oversight and onsite monitoring of work activities. Officials said on Thursday afternoon that the company National Grid contracted to perform the excavation has suspended their activities until they obtain the right permit for trucks carrying contaminated soil off the peninsula. "The decision to suspend trucking was made by Poscillico, the general contractor for the remediation," NYSDEC spokesperson Arturo Garcia-Costas said. "The trucking company they had selected had obtained the required daily permits for the Verrazano Bridge but incorrectly believed that the permits they had received also covered use of the Marine Parkway Bridge." According to NYSDEC, the trucks were too heavy to cross the bridge and in order to resume trucking across the bridge, the contractor must reduce the weight of the loads, either by putting less material on the current truck models in service or by using a different truck that has a similar capacity to the current trucks, but can meet the weight requirement.

National Grid representatives say that excavation is expected to resume on Tuesday, May 26 after nearly two weeks of postponement. According to spokesperson Karen Young, National Grid was advised by MTA Bridges and Tunnels that they require trucks carrying excavated soil from the site across the Marine Parkway Bridge to be longer than the trucks originally used. They say, longer trucks reduce the impact on the bridge pavement and structures without significantly reducing the truck loads transported.

"Trucks have been arranged for and will be available for use shortly. Until the longer trucks are available the shorter dump trucks will be used at a reduced weight," Young said.

Garcia-Costas and Young both added however, that other work on the site such as the importing of clean fill and other finishing materials has not been suspended.

National Grid says the trucks previously used, the shorter dump truck type, are the industry standard.

"Tri-axle shorter dump trucks are standard in the industry for transporting this type of material," Young said. "All of the roads used along the route are approved for this type of transport by the NYSDOT and City of New York."

State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, whose office has been in continued contact with National Grid and NYSDEC officials before and after the cleanup began, said that the remediation of the site is top priority for the area. "I continue to maintain that the clean-up and remediation of the site is top priority," Pheffer said. "However, all necessary regulations, procedures and safety precautions must be adhered to.

After speaking with the NYSDEC and National Grid, I have been assured that the site is being administered to meet all of the requirements and trucking permit restrictions. I will continue to monitor this situation closely." Although this is the first problem with the site's 16 month cleanup, a small group of residents had accused National Grid and NYSDEC of violating various safety and environmental protocols in the past months. NYSDEC looked into those accusations, but found nothing wrong with the on-site excavation and work activities at that time. The group had accused National Grid, of putting the community in danger by not following the protocol outlined in the original remediation plans. Accusations consisted of workers at the site not wearing hazmat suits, excavation occurring in the open air, including open trenches of contaminated soil and the lack of dust control.

But since then, a full time water truck has been implemented on site to control dust, and excavation has occurred inside a tent standing 45 feet high, measuring 188 feet by 194 feet. It is aluminum-framed and covered in a durable PVC fabric, making it look more like a dome.

According to project officials, trucks are loaded with the contaminated dirt inside the tent and sealed off at the top with white foam and covered with tarp.

Plans call for eight feet, roughly 88,000 cubic yards, of excavation, followed by a two foot finishing top layer cap of sand and gravel.

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