Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ozone Park Cleanup Raises Concerns by Lisa Fogarty - Queens Chronicle

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Businesses housed within the eight affected bays on 99th and 100th Streets between 101st and 103rd Avenues will have to leave, DEC says.

Some small businesses in Ozone Park will have to be temporarily displaced and residents are still wondering how they will be affected when the state performs a critical cleanup at a contaminated site, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Only a handful of people attended last Wednesday’s meeting at J.H.S. 210 in Ozone Park to hear the DEC’s proposal to address contamination at the former site of Ozone Industries, located between 103rd and 101st avenues and 99th and 100th streets. The low attendance wasn’t due to a lack of concern, but rather the city and state’s inadequacy in alerting residents to the problem, many said.

“Nobody showed up because nobody knew,” said one angry business owner.

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Glendale) questioned the DEC about how traffic congestion caused by the project would affect residents — the agency responded that a plan would be put in place — and offered to help get the word out about the project. “You didn’t do a good job contacting the residents,” Miller said. “Maybe you’ll do a better job now.”

Until 1998, Ozone Industries, an aircraft parts manufacturer that operated at 101-32 101st St., rented several bays beneath the Long Island Rail Road that were used to store spent trichloroethene, hydraulic fluids and scrap metal chips. The DEC believes that solvents, oils and/or fluids may have been released in one or more of the bays.

Trichloroethene, or TCE, is a known carcinogen that, if ingested or inhaled over long periods of time, can cause liver damage and increase the risk of cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The state’s proposal calls for the removal of floors in eight bays, which would all be performed at the same time. Soil would be excavated and a soil vapor extraction system would be constructed to collect vapors from the deeper soils.

The implementation cost is $2.2 million, the construction cost is $1.5 million and an annual cost of $210,000 per year for two years following construction would be used to monitor the system. The entire cost would be paid for by Enzone Inc., an off-site paper company responsible for the area, said John Durnin, DEC’s project manager.

The DEC’s goal is to finalize plans by January, approve designs by the summer and begin the cleanup six to 12 months later.

State representatives said certain action plans would be put in place to ensure chemical vapors didn’t escape while the work was being performed, but this promise did little to satisfy residents’ concerns.

“Even if I close my windows, I get a breeze,” said Felicina Lisena, who lives across the street from the site. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to do one bay at a time so there’s less chemical exposure?”

The businesses within the bays, which consist mainly of storage units and utilities, will have to relocate while the work is being performed, DEC said. Durnin said it is the responsibility of Enzone and its environmental consultant company, AECOM, to work with the city and help reposition those companies.

In the meantime, neither Stephanie Renz at the mortgage company Northpoint Group, located across the street from the site, nor a spokeswoman at Tavella Plumbing, also across the street, have received an update about the DEC’s plans. A manager at Olympic Fence company, which has a main office on Atlantic Avenue but maintains a warehouse space in the affected area, said to his knowledge, the bay they use is not one of the eight that has been contaminated. Nevertheless, the city or state hasn’t provided him with an update on what to expect.

A representative from the DEC said an effort was made to alert business owners and letters had been sent to property owners, but that doesn’t always ensure tenants will be informed.

DEC is accepting written comments about the proposed remedy until Dec. 24. Submit comments to John Durnin, P.E. at NYSDEC, Division of Environmental Remediation at 625 Broadway, Albany, N.Y. 12233-7016.