The site, located at 76-01 77th Ave., was first called a “significant threat” by the department in November 2000. DEC found “hazardous waste presents a significant threat to the public health or the environment and action is required.” In 2006, the estimated cost of the project was over $900,000.
DEC started injection well drilling activities in the contaminated areas in July, and expects to complete the installation by early 2014. These injections will help monitor levels of tetrachloroethene (PCE), the main pollutant.
“I’m sure the community feels good that it’s being cleaned up,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller. “It’s something that they’ve been living with for years.”
Injection well drillings are often used in on and offshore projects to recover oil, but will instead be used to dilute the pollutant.
EnviroTrac Ltd. will perform the cleanup activities. The contractor also drafted a community protection plan to “ensure that on-site workers and the nearby community are protected.”
“I think it’s about time that this site is remediated,” said Miller, who cited another site in Ozone Park that will undergo a similar process.
Miller attributed the contamination to the hazardous chemicals that the old dry cleaning service used. The long cleanup process, according to Miller, is also due to the time it took to identify what happened, how to clean up the contamination, and getting access to the site from the current owner.
“It’s long overdue,” said State Senator Joe Addobbo who links the delay to the necessary funding and paperwork. “It’s the people who suffer.”
Twelve locations along 76th St. will have injection well pairs installed as well as monitoring wells. Sodium permanganate, a compound that is often used in water treatment, will be injected into the ground after which soil vapor levels will be re-evaluated.
In August 2001, the state Department of Health took air samples from 17 residences near the contamination site and found PCE vapors in 16 of those samples.
The contractor will continue to monitor and evaluate the contamination levels to ensure they are declining. A long-term monitoring program will also be instituted.
Kliegman Brothers Inc., a laundry and dry cleaning service, formerly used the property from the 1950s to 1999. Gourmet Food, an imported food distributor, currently uses the site.
According to DEC, the old laundry facility contained two 6,000-gallon, above-ground storage tanks used to hold tetrachloroethene, a chemical widely used in dry cleaning. The tanks were removed from the site prior to the discovery of the contamination.
It is unknown if the tanks were leaking or if there was an accident when they were removed.
In a statement, DEC said it “does not know exactly how the PCE contamination entered into the environment. The Kliegman Brothers operation may have involved washing equipment that contained residual PCE and dumping the waste onto the ground, but there is no record of this.”
Between 1997 and 2002, there were at least six investigations performed at the site. Each of the investigations “revealed the presence of PCE, often at high concentrations.”
People who were exposed to the high concentration of PCE in the air and soil may have experienced skin rashes or irritation. According to a fact sheet distributed by the Health Department, prolonged exposure to high levels of PCE have been linked to visual and learning disabilities, as well as liver or kidney tumors or leukemia.
In the 16 residences where levels of PCE were found, the levels were not as hazardous as the contamination at the original site. The highest levels were found in the basement of the old laundry facility.
“Because of this location’s close proximity to residential homes, it is imperative that the DEC closely monitor noise levels and potential damage to private property throughout this project,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.
The contaminated groundwater isn’t expected to affect the public because the area’s water supply comes from reservoirs upstate.
“Water pressure from inside a water supply pipe would prevent vapors or groundwater from entering inside a pipe,” assured DEC. “Ventilation fans were installed to help circulate fresh air into the basement and lower the PCE levels. In addition, a soil vapor extraction system located on the site is operating continuously to remediate the on-site contamination.”
A search was done for a responsible party, but the old Kliegman Brothers is listed as bankrupt. Once the remediation is complete, DEC will seek to recover the cost of the cleanup and recommends that people who think they have been affected contact attorneys.
“These kinds of projects, unless you’re watching them, unless you’re really on top of them and [you] make sure that they keep moving, at any point can stop for any reason,” Addobbo said. “We’re not happy until the project is done. We have to keep an eye on this project.”