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Queens Chronicle

Ozone Park toxic site cleanup to begin next month, but questions remain

Cleanup detailed at CB 9, but some fret about contamination elsewhere

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Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:45 am, Thu Apr 18, 2013.

End Zone Industries, the company tasked with cleaning up dangerous chemicals at a former industrial site in Ozone Park, came to Community Board 9 on Tuesday to explain the process in which they will clean up the location under the former Rockaway Beach Long Island Rail Road line.

Representatives from the company received a healthy interrogation from concerned members of the board, including some questions that could not be answered immediately.

The site, located between 101st and 103rd avenues and 99th and 100th streets, is home to eight storage bays situated beneath the former Ozone Park LIRR station. When End Zone’s predecessor company, Ozone Industries, was active in its adjacent factory in the late 20th century, it used the bays to store aircraft parts until 1998.

Today the bays are vacant, but the soil beneath them is contaminated with trichloroethene, or TCE, a chemical that is linked to cancer and disorders of the central nervous system.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has been working with End Zone for nearly a decade on a cleanup plan for the bays. They took the first samples to test for TCE in 2004. The 12,000-square-foot location is a Superfund site.

End Zone last month received the final clearances to access the site from the city, which owns the land. The remediation work is scheduled to begin in the middle of May.

David Austin, project manager for AECOM, a consulting firm working with End Zone on the cleanup, said the project will take 3 to 4 months and will include trucking the contaminated soil away from the site and venting some of the TCE into the air. He added that air-monitoring systems will be put in place to keep real-time readings to make sure the levelof TCE does not reach dangerous levels.

The dirt will be transported by large trucks that will load along 100th Street. A wood barrier will be constructed, behind which the trucks will load, but traffic will still be allowed to travel along the street. The dirt will then be taken to a government-sanctioned refuse site. Austin said he did not know where that would be.

“It will be up to the contractor who trucks out the dirt,” he said.

Public records on the project will be kept at Queens Library’s Long Island Division in the Jamaica Central Library and flyers informing local residents about the project will be handed out in the community. Anyone requesting more information or who has concerns should contact Pete Guaraldi at (516) 829-8375.

But members of CB 9 had a litany of concerns about the plan, including protecting the public from the dirt while it is being transported, venting the TCE and what will happen if a dangerous amount of the chemical is detected in the air.

“There are procedures for the people who are working to get the dirt out, stockpile it and put it into a truck,” he explained. “They have to protect themselves and there are also going to be mechanisms on site, like foaming and spraying, to keep the dirt wet.”

Some also expressed concerns about the possibility of TCE contamination beyond the eight bays being cleaned.

A local business owner — whose attempt to speak during the presentation resulted in a shouting match between him and CB 9’s new chairman Jim Cocovillo — alleged a cover-up by End Zone and suggested TCE contamination beyond the site, including under PS 65, a public elementary school a block away.

In 2002, the DEC said there were traces of TCE under the school and a ventilation system was put in place to air the chemical in the ground. The school is in Community Board 10’s jurisdiction.

“The concerns that are being raised, that I’m hearing, is less about the area End Zone is working in and more about what’s beyond that area,” said CB 9 member Evelyn Baron.

Austin said they did not have any information about TCE contamination outside of the area they were cleaning up and suggested board members take their concerns to the DEC.

“There are issues of concern for the community other than this site,” Cocovillo added before ending the discussion. “But that will have to be talked about later on.”

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