Work started this week on the controversial project to remove toxic chemicals from a former industrial site in Ozone Park.
The work along 100th Street between 101st and 103rd avenues will clean eight bays under the former Ozone Park LIRR station that were once used for storage by Ozone Industries, an aircraft parts manufacturer that operated out of an adjacent factory until the late 1990s.
Ozone Industries placed drums in the ground below the bays that contained a chemical called trichloroethylene, or TCE, a substance linked to some forms of cancer and problems of the central nervous system. The chemical is used in aircraft manufacturing.
For the past decade, End Zone, the successor company to Ozone Industries, has been working with the city and the state to remediate TCE contamination. The eight bays where the work will be done has been labeled a state Superfund site.
John Durnin, a representative from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, spoke to Community Board 9 about the status of the project that had been scheduled to begin last month. Durnin did not say what caused the delay, but did detail what kind of work will be done.
He said the concrete floor of the bays will be removed and the soil will be excavated.
“The contamination is in the soil,” Durnin explained. “It will be trucked away in sealed trucks.”
Air monitors will be placed around the site and workers will be assigned to shifts to make sure no dangerous level of the chemical is recorded.
“The work is going to be done inside the closed bays,” Durnin said. “There will be no outside work done. The contaminated soil will not be exposed.”
Some of the contamination will be vented into the air, but only trace amounts that the DEC says is not dangerous.
The work began on Monday and will continue through September, Durnin said.
“The actual construction work is going to be four or five months,” he said. “But all this work with soil excavation and concrete work is going to happen in roughly the next six weeks.”
Durnin said seven of the eight bays will be given back to the city to lease out and one bay will be kept for equipment to deal with any residual work that may need to be done.
Some residents and business owners expressed concern that the contamination may not be limited to the eight bays and may have spread through groundwater to areas south of the site.
Laura Boehm, who owns a consulting business adjacent to the site, has repeatedly expressed her concern over the potential that the contamination is a lot larger than just in those eight bays. `
“We wanted to know the true extent of this problem,” she said in April. “How big is it? Why just these eight bays?”
Boehm was at Tuesday’s CB 9 meeting and spoke to Durnin after.
Durnin said the DEC was aware of readings showing TCE as far south as Liberty Avenue in the early 2000s, but that no readings south of 103rd Avenue were taken once End Zone took over testing after 2004.
The area south of 103rd Avenue is part of Community Board 10.
CB 9 member Etienne David Adorno asked Durnin to clarify that the DEC stopped taking readings around the middle of the last decade and any readings taken thereafter were End Zone’s responsibility.
“What you’re saying is no readings outside of these bays were taken by End Zone once they took over the testing?” Adorno asked him.
“That’s all I wanted to know,” Adorno said.