ROCKAWAY RESIDENTS are criticizing National Grid for being unresponsive to community concerns as the utility giant prepares to clean up the site of a former gas plant.
The company will begin remediating the site along Beach Channel Drive next month and is expected to excavate more than 130,000 tons of toxin-laden soil from the 9-acre property.
Neighbors believe that excavating the soil, instead of using new remediation technology, is putting the community at risk.
"When toxins become unearthed, they become volatile," said Ronald Joseph, 46, a Verizon worker and homeowner who lives less than 100 yards from the site. "If the remediation is done incorrectly, then we'll be the ones paying for it."
A state Department of Environmental Conservation report in 2004 identified seven probable human carcinogens at the site, which operated as a gas plant from the 1870s until 1958.
"There's a limited amount of monitoring devices near where people live," said Noreen Ellis, a member of the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association. "Let's test and find out what's in the ground and where it has moved."
National Grid, which inherited the largely barren site from its corporate predecessor KeySpan, said the company "protects the public and on-site workers."
It also has started a Web site and sends updates to more than 9,000 addresses, said company spokeswoman Karen Young.
"National Grid maintains a Web site with a weekly update of activities on the site, particularly those that may have a community impact," said Young. "The weekly update also includes the results and an analysis of the 24-hour-a-day air monitoring done at the site perimeter."
Ellis, however, disputes the company's numbers.
"Since the first meeting, we've asked for more communications about the meetings," she said. "Why don't they send notices with our bills?"
"We've made numerous requests for more up-to-date testing and it's gone unanswered," she added.
Joseph said he had a problem getting a response to a letter he sent the DEC in November.
"Their response didn't answer any of my eight particular questions," said Joseph, who resubmitted the questions a second time through Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer's office in January.
Some community members are concerned that the contaminants have migrated underground to neighboring properties and into Jamaica Bay. Those toxins have been detected in a marsh nearly a mile from the site, said Dan Mundy Sr., head of the Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers.
"It seems like [National Grid] didn't want to explore alternatives or listen to any community input," he said.