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Queens Chronicle

Toxic Flushing site to be dredged

Part of the Brownfield program, the DEC proposes plan for remediation

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Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:03 am, Thu Jul 18, 2013.

A plot in Flushing sits vacant just off of College Point Boulevard near the Van Wyck Expressway and the Flushing River. The site of the former Flushing Industrial Park is toxic ground and has been for years but the state is hoping to turn that around by dredging out the waste and replacing it with clean fill.

Moderately contaminated areas toxic enough to cause concern but not enough to qualify for federal or state Superfund cleanup programs have been a problem in the city for years.

Hope came in 2003 when the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program — a seven-year effort to turn the abandoned industrial sites into usable properties — was implemented.

“If you or me are looking to buy a site, we’re going to pay a lot less money if the land is contaminated,” said James Cervino, adjunct professor at Columbia University and visiting scientist at Woods Hole Oceangraphic Institution. “The Brownfield program allows these buyers to be eligible for saving on taxes, low-interest loans and grants so that Department of Environmental Conservation can go in there and come up with a smooth environmental cleanup plan to ensure it is taken care of properly.”

In May, an official remedy was proposed for the vacant plot.

It will be a massive project involving excavation of toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-impacted ground, restoring the dredged areas of the riverbed to its current elevation with clean granular fill and implementing a site management plan.

The DEC is accepting written comments about the plan from June 19 through Aug. 3.

“The problem with these areas is not what’s on top,” Cervino said. “It can look perfectly fine on top. But over the years, starting with the Industrial Revolution, people were dumping toxic materials without thinking of the consequences. Whatever is underneath the ground is being moved around and eventually reaches out into the groundwater and then the saltwater. That water migrates and people, natural habitats and wildlife are being exposed to these chemicals.”

The Flushing Industrial Park plot, which is adjacent to the Skyview Park shopping center and residential complex, was once owned by Con Edison and its predecessor company from 1923 to the 1980s where it operated as a service center to support electrical and gas utility operations.

According to the DEC, these historic operations have impacted portions of the Flushing River. The agency completed an extensive environmental survey of the land in 2009 and determined that site-related PCBs were present in near-shore mud flat sediments, gradually contaminating the river.

Though Con Edison sold the land in 1989, the company entered into a consent order with the DEC in March 2008.

To comment on the proposed plan, contact Ioana Munteanu-Ramnic, the project manager at (718) 4824065 or email her at ixmuntea@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

A detailed version of the plan is available for public review at the Queens Public Library Flushing Branch at 41-17 Main St. and at the DEC Region 2 Office at 47-40 21 St. in Long Island City.

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