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Loud opposition to waste - Opponents flood officials with letters and petitions

The voices of Canarsiens have been raised loud and clear against a medical waste transfer station that one entrepreneur wants to site in the community.

By the deadline of September 19th, over 1,800 letters, plus petitions containing hundreds of signatures, had been forwarded by City Councilmember Charles Barron to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in opposition to the facility, which has been proposed by CMW Industries for 100-02 Farragut Road, where the company now operates an ambulette service.

Residents expressed worry that the facility would impact the quality of life and health of the community. In particular, they objected to the additional traffic that would be created, as well as the possibility of hazardous materials being transported and stored in the community.

The letters and petitions largely reflect the opposition of area residents to the siting, said Melvin Faulkner, senior coordinator for Barron, whose office has been coordinating the opposition to the facility.

“I feel we will have a hearing in the very near future,” noted Faulkner. “I don’t see them avoiding it. This is a Pandora’s box. They don’t want to see it opened in their face. People are really up in arms against this thing.”

However, as of now, DEC – which issues permits for such facilities – has not yet decided whether to hold a public hearing on the siting, said Lori O’Connell, an agency spokesperson.

“Currently,” O’Connell told this paper, “the department is reviewing the comments and letters that were received and we’re trying to determine if a public hearing will be required. At this time, no decision has been made.”

Among the factors that will be considered, O’Connell said, are, “The amount of comment, if there are a lot of different concerns, and if there’s a lot of interest from the public in that area.”

Asked if there was a time frame for the decision, O’Connell said, “We don’t really have a time frame. Usually the decision is made shortly after” comments are received, she said. If the agency decided not to hold a public hearing, it would then go on to decide whether or not to issue a permit for the facility.

On August 11th, DEC had sent out a notification to the community that the application by CMW Industries to operate the transfer station was complete. At that time, they had set September 19th as the deadline for written comment to be received. Efforts by City Councilmember Charles Barron to extend the deadline, to allow residents more time to muster their forces, had been turned down by DEC.

Given the time constraints, word of the issue and copies of a sample letter had been widely distributed to area residents, said Mary Anne Sallustro, the president of the South Canarsie Civic Association. Local civic associations had pitched in with distribution, she said; in addition, Sallustro said that students at area schools including Public School 66 and Our Lady of Miracles had brought the information home.

“It was coming from all different sources, and spreading like wildfire,” Sallustro reported. “No one wants it. They know what it is now, and they understand the danger.”

As much as 15 tons of regulated medical waste could be sent to the facility each day, according to the DEC notice, which also says that the facility could handle “an undefined quantity of conditionally exempt hazardous waste.”

Among the substances that could be “collected and stored for removal” are “formalin, formaldehyde and formaldehyde solutions, xylene, alcohol, mercury and waste mercury,” the notice said.

If the plan goes through, CMW, which is a licensed regulated medical waste transporter, would utilize approximately 1,500 square feet within the existing garage area of the building as a regulated medical waste transfer station. This would be the first such facility in Brooklyn. Currently, CMW transports the medical waste it collects to a facility in the Bronx.

Under this arrangement, medical waste brought to the property in cargo vans or box trucks would be stored inside a 40-foot tractor-trailer container, which would be taken away when filled. “The on-site storage of hazardous waste is limited to less than ten days,” according to the notice issued by DEC. The facility would be open for operation, according to the DEC notice, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

CMW owner Gershon Klein, has repeatedly contended that the facility would pose no risk to the surrounding neighborhood.

At a public hearing held earlier this year as part of the DEC permitting process, he had said, “It’s not impacting Canarsie. We’re not treating waste. It’s no different than if we had a grocery store and were getting boxes. I don’t believe it’s dangerous. It may be dangerous, but not any more dangerous than Brookdale Hospital.”

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