Monday, December 21, 2009

Scientist: Throgs Neck Rehab Dumped Toxins into Little Bay by Joe Kemp - NY Daily News

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A bridge rehabilitation project that already has a list of snafus - including the death of a worker and a fire that resulted in weeks of snarled traffic - is being charged with yet another potential hazard: the dumping of high levels of lead and mercury in the water.

The blasting of lead-based paint on the Throgs Neck Bridge, the 2,300-foot span that connects Queens and the Bronx, may have contaminated the waters of Little Bay, according to an environmental scientist.

"I'm not by any means trying to attack the MTA [Bridges and Tunnels]," said Dr. James Cervino, an environmental scientist who serves on the Task Force on Health Effects of Toll Plaza Air Quality in New York City, a state panel.

"I want to urge them to start collecting samples and work with the community," Cervino said.

The MTA, however, argues that the bridge project has met all environmental safety requirements, and the new claims are simply unfounded.

"The process was performed in full containment, with additional restrictions imposed on work performed near sensitive locations," said MTA Bridges and Tunnels vice president Catherine Sweeney in a response letter sent last week.

According to the agency's monitoring of 103 dust-producing work days on the bridge, no dangerous levels of potentially harmful metals were emitted.

But those tests should have included more samples, Cervino said.

"They only tested air," he said, adding that his findings came from the water and the land along the shoreline of the bay.

Although his tests were preliminary, Cervino and community leaders plan to hire an independent laboratory to conduct a more thorough examination of the samples. The results of which should be known by mid-January, he said.

"We're grateful to [Cervino]," said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose). "He's been more often right than wrong."

Considering the safety of the residents, Padavan hopes the new tests only prove the agency's claim that the area is toxin-free.

"I'd like them to be right," he said.

Concerned locals also hope the results don't reveal any threats to their health.

"I coach soccer under that bridge," said Anthony Melone, 44, the father of two young children. "Those kids roll around all over that field. This is ridiculous."