DEC Reports: Progress At Contaminated Former Utility Company Sites In NYC And Long Island

October 8, 2008 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

One year after dramatically expanding the number of contaminated, former utility sites in New York City and Long Island that are under state cleanup oversight, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has made steady progress on a decades-old pollution problem, Commissioner Pete Grannis said today.

DEC successfully added 40 former manufactured gas plants (MGP) and gas storage facilities to the state’s remediation programs since 2007 — 24 of those now have work plans or site investigation plans in place. These and other MGP-related sites were contaminated during the early 1800s to the mid-1900s when utility companies opened facilities around the state to convert coal and petroleum to a gas used for cooking and heating.

“These sites are all that remain from technologies used to build our society, but unfortunately, they continue to leave a contaminated legacy that impacts us today,” Commissioner Grannis said. “I have made the comprehensive and expeditious cleanup of MGP-related sites a priority for DEC and we will continue to work with the utility companies and the community to ensure that these sites are fully addressed.”

DEC has developed one of the most aggressive MGP cleanup initiatives in the country, with 247 sites across the state identified to date. Consolidated Edison (ConEd) and Keyspan/National Grid have identified and are working with DEC on 90 sites in New York City and Long Island. Investigations and cleanups are now complete at 10 of those sites. Hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated soil have been, or will be removed based on currently approved site remedial programs, and dozens of recovery wells have been installed to capture migrating coal tar.

“Historically, every community in the state relied on these gas plants for energy, but it was not until quite recently that there has been a concerted effort find all the places where they once existed and to address the extent of the environmental impacts left behind” Grannis added. “While there is much more work to be done, we are making steady and significant progress.”

The gas manufacturing industry no longer exists – the last New York State MGP closed in 1972, and most of the others were replaced by piped natural gas long before that. Some plant sites have been closed for more than 100 years. However, they still pose contamination problems today. Large amounts of previously undetected liquid waste, known as coal tar, often leaked into soils beneath the manufacturing and storage sites. In some cases, they developed into contaminated underground plumes, thousands of feet long.

Lesser amounts of tar sometimes escaped from “gas holders,” facilities where the gas was stored for local distribution. High-pressure, elevated spherical gas tanks known as “Hortonspheres” also were used to store gas. Although the Hortonspheres have not been identified as sources of significant MGP-related contamination, they are the subjects of DEC-required investigations along with other illuminating gas plants.

The vast majority of MGP cleanups in the state are covered by cleanup agreements reached with utilities over the last 14 years. The initiative took another important step forward in 2007 and 2008 when DEC and Keyspan entered into agreements requiring the cleanup of 29 MGP sites and 11 Hortonsphere/Gas Illuminating plant sites in New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties. The agreements included compliance timetables and National Grid (formerly Keyspan) has been moving ahead as scheduled since the agreements were reached.

Recent Progress on Long Island and in New York City:
Of the 24 MGP sites included since the 2007/2008 consent orders, 13 sites have investigation plans in place:

The investigation of the Babylon MGP is anticipated to begin this fall.
The Brentwood Disposal Site will begin an interim measure to remove MGP waste in October.
Soil removal was completed at the East Garden City-Stewart Avenue site this past spring.
The site investigation at the Long Beach MGP is slated to begin this fall.
The remedial investigations at the Patchogue and Far Rockaway MGPs are nearing completion.
Remedial investigation is under way at the Fulton Works.
Remedial investigations will soon be under way at the Greenpoint and Williamsburg Works MGP sites.
Work plans have been approved for four gas holder sites in Brooklyn (Rutledge Street Station, Skillman Street Station, Front Street Station and Keap Street Station) and field work is slated to begin as soon as access agreements are finalized with the current site owners.
Since last August, work plans were developed and finalized for all 11 Hortonsphere and Illuminating Gas sites, and these sites are in various stages of the site investigations.

In addition to the sites being addressed under the 2007/2008 Keyspan orders, progress is being made on other large MGP cleanups. Since last August:

At the Bay Shore site, removal of over 100,000 tons of contaminated soil and debris has recently been completed. A containment wall surrounding the most heavily contaminated area is complete, and bids are due shortly for construction of an ozone treatment system behind the barrier wall. An oxygen injection system is operating to treat groundwater contamination in the surrounding community, and construction is under way to significantly expand this system. These additional treatment systems are slated to begin operation by the end of 2008. The community has been actively involved through regular status updates and other outreach efforts.
At the Hempstead site, 24 recovery wells are in place and have recovered over 170 gallons of coal tar to date. An interim soil removal project to remove approximately 4,000 cubic yards of coal tar-contaminated soil began in September. A more extensive cleanup plan has been approved to deal with the remainder of the site and with contaminated groundwater in surrounding areas. Design work for this larger project is under way, with construction anticipated in 2009 and 2010. DEC staff have held several public meetings and briefings with local officials to provide status updates.
At the Sag Harbor site, the cleanup plan design is complete and was presented to the public in late August. An estimated 17,000 cubic yards of material will be removed from depths ranging from 10 to 15 feet below the surface. After extensive public outreach and consultation with village officials, construction started in September and will be completed by next spring.
At the Glen Cove site, the investigation is complete and a final report is being prepared to present the findings. Once the report has been finalized, a public meeting will be held to present the results to the public.
At Halesite, remedial construction began in September and is scheduled for completion next spring. A fact sheet was mailed in early August and a public availability session was held in the Town of Huntington last month to address community questions regarding the cleanup.
At the Rockaway Park site, a large soil removal project estimated at about 90,000 cubic yards is slated to begin shortly, with completion targeted for spring 2010.
At the Coney Island site, 46,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed from the site, and 60,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments were removed from 2,200 feet of Coney Island Creek. A cap was installed over the site, and a 2,200-foot long barrier wall was installed to prevent recontamination of the creek. Remedial construction is 90 percent complete, with the remaining component – construction of the permanent groundwater treatment system – scheduled to begin this November.
(Of the 90 New York City and Long Island MGP-related sites, Keyspan/National Grid is responsible for 54, primarily located in Queens, Kings, Nassau, Suffolk and Richmond counties, and ConEd is responsible for 36 MGP-related sites, located in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. These locations correspond with where the company’s operations historically took place.)

DEC has updated the website detailing MGP-related cleanups to provide a new PDF document, “New York’s Approach to the Remediation of Former Manufactured Gas Plants,” with background information of the history of and challenges posed by MGP contamination, as well as a site-by-site snapshot of the investigations and cleanups currently taking place in New York City and Long Island. DEC’s MGP website address is . In addition, more site-specific information can be found at , , and by searching the DEC remediation database, , then plugging in the MGP site number into the search engine.

Source: DEC


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