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State Workers Investigate former Gas Plant Site

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Three industrial lots on a dead-end street off Maspeth Avenue in Williamsburg are the subject of an extensive environmental study for the presence of coal tar.

National Grid, along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Environmental Health, began a remedial investigation on September 18 under the state’s Superfund Program at the former Equity Works Manufactured Gas Plant site (222, 252, and 254 Maspeth Avenue). The investigation of the 2-acre site is expected to continue through November.

Gas manufacturing ceased on the site in 1933, but state environmental officials believe that coal tar, a viscous by-product of cabonizing coal to make coal gas, may still be present.Cooper Tank, which primarily manufactures solid waste handling containers, is operating an industrial recycling facility on the site of the investigation, but is not part of the environmental study.

“TheMGP on this site was relatively small, and operated from at least 1907 until sometime prior to 1933,” said DEC spokesperson Lori Severino. “The Greenpoint Energy Center, containing the far larger Greenpoint former MGP, is locatedacross Maspeth Avenue to the north.”

According to Severino, the investigation has four main goals: to define the nature and extent of contamination in the soil, surface water, and groundwater, to identify the sources of the contamination, assess the impact on public health, and add data to assist the eventual remediation of the site.

After the DEC’s project managers collect data on the site, National Grid will conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the potential ways to remove contamination.DEC officials noted that it was also possible that data collected in the study may support conclusions that no action should be taken to clean the site.

The state investigation is just one of many in a square mile radius near Cooper Park and the East Williamsburg Industrial Valley.

In late 2008, the state DEC began conducting samples and testing homes and sites in East Williamsburg and Greenpoint for the presence of soil vapors from chlorinated solvents.

After a second round of testing in March 2009, the DEC, in consultation with the DOH, offered sub-slab mitigation systems to several homeowners in the area.Fourteen sub-slab mitigation systems were installed by DEC in the spring and another ten monitoring wells were installed nearNorman and Kingsland Avenues after a fifth round of testing this past summer.A report documenting this work, particularly results from the former Spic and Span site at Norman and Kingsland is expected to be available in late October.

Steve Garrelts, a resident near Cooper Park and president of the Cooper Park Neighborhood Association, welcomed the testing on Maspeth Avenue, and urged further vigilance from state officials in the industrial neighborhood

“I don’t know what’s being dumped or transferred there.There’s a dumping station across from baseball field that is a block away from Cooper Park.If the owners want to put a roof on it, we wouldn’t say no.”

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