Clean-up crews have removed most of the toxic contaminants discovered in the soil in a section of KeySpan’s Ravenswood power plant in Long Island City.
The utility company is voluntarily removing the toxins, which were deposited by industrial plants that had existed at the site. The clean-up will be completed in a few weeks, according to KeySpan officials.
In mid-July, KeySpan will begin laying the cement foundation for a 250-megawatt generating facility that will augment its existing 1,800-megawatt plant.
Small amounts of the toxin BTEX and Number 6 fuel oil were found in the soil, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is overseeing the clean-up.
“The potential is that over years and years the toxins could be dissolved into the ground water or the East River,” said Jennifer Meicht, a spokeswoman for the NYSDEC.
Any remaining toxins will be “capped” by the cement foundation, she said. “The building will prevent rainwater from percolating through and dispersing the contaminants.”
BTEX, which is short for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, is a waste product from a manufactured gas plant that used to operate there.
If ingested, BTEX can cause skin and sensory irritation, depress the nervous system or impair respiratory function.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, benzene is also a human carcinogen.
A manufactured gas plant had operated at the Ravenswood site from 1890 until the early 1950s. “Wherever there was a MGP plant, it’s invariable that the site has residue,” said Ed Yutkowitz, a spokesman for KeySpan. “It’s residue from the industrial age.”
The oil found in the soil came from an old pipe that had once fueled fire burners at the plant.
KeySpan discovered the contaminants in the soil after conducting an environmental review of the site in 1999 when they were purchasing it from Consolidated Edison.