It appears as though flood relief for Southeast Queens has been short-lived. After only three months in operation, pumping at Station 24 in Jamaica has been suspended.
Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica), who has been spearheading the fight to get the city to reduce the groundwater table, said the Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency in charge of running the site, told his office it would not be pumping again.
“They never indicated to us that this was going to be a three-month project,” Scarborough said. “We knew it was a major goal for them to clean the toxins in the water, but we were led to believe this was going to be a long-term project. To start and end this after three months is not acceptable, especially when it began resolving some of the flooding problems in the area, and people close to the site were seeing some real progress.”
A spokeswoman for the DEC said in an email that pumping had been suspended as of last week because its supply of a sequestering agent needed to separate out iron in the water is almost exhausted. And there is now enough accumulated data to conduct an analysis of the site’s performance in accordance withprior discussions and understandings with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.
“During review of the report, site work (other than periodic site inspections and maintaining treatment system equipment as necessary) will remain suspended,” Lisa King, a spokeswoman for the DEC, said in an email.
Station 24 was reactivated after public outcry arose over chronic flooding in Southeast Queens spurred by the elevated groundwater table, which slowly rose after the Jamaica Water Supply company was purchased by the city and shut down in 1996.
After reactivation, the site was to pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute, according to DEP officials, who gave civic leaders and elected officials a tour of the facility at 180th Street and 106th Avenue back in April.
The water in the area is polluted by chemicals from the West Side Corp., a former adjacent dry cleaning plant, so it could not be used for drinking water. However, DEP officials said the toxins would be filtered out and the water emptied into Jamaica Bay.
Station 24 consists of two wells, six granular-activated-carbon vessels to clean the water and two chemical holding tanks filled with the sequestering agent. That substance is used to prevent iron from fouling the well screens in the GAC treatment units.
“The big question is who is going to pay to continue the pumping,” Scarborough said, adding that each agency — the DEP and DEC — appear to be passing the buck to each other.
“DEC is taking the lead on this project, and they are handling every detail,” Mercedes Padilla, a spokeswoman for the DEP said Wednesday. The DEC did not respond to inquiries by press time regarding Station 24’s daily operating costs and where the funding is coming from.
Scarborough has reason to be concerned. A similar issue has occurred before. Station 6, a pilot program to reduce groundwater and prevent flooding, was discontinued due to a lack of funding.
At one point the cost to run Station 6 was $220 million and the DEP could not continue to spend so much and expect to be able to provide other necessary services, the agency’s Deputy Commissioner Jim Roberts told attendees at a meeting in June 2011.