Lead contaminates site of former plant on Staten Island

April 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm 1 comment

Federal Environmental Protection Agency officials confirmed yesterday what residents have feared for decades about a former industrial site on the waterfront near Port Richmond Avenue: There is a dangerously high level of lead in the soil.

At a closed-door meeting yesterday, agency officials met with environmental activists, representatives of Rep. Michael McMahon (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn), the borough president’s office and the office of City Councilman Kenneth Mitchell (D-North Shore) to discuss the findings of lead levels more than 10 times higher than what is deemed safe.

Starting Monday, bales of hay and a silt fence will be erected around the perimeter of the 46,800-square-foot property to reduce the risk of exposure. A full-scale remediation effort will begin in upcoming weeks, with the toxic soil to be carted away and replaced by clean fill and potentially a cap, according to EPA officials.

Also Monday, the agency will launch a public information campaign, with meetings and door-to-door canvassing by EPA agents to discuss remediation steps.

“The people of Staten Island have been the victims of environmental injustice for too long,” said McMahon, in a press release.

Last year, after the publication of a report on potential toxins in the area by the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy, then-Councilman McMahon sent a slew of letters to city, state and federal agencies demanding an analysis of 2000 Richmond Terr.

The now-vacant site was a production facility for John Jewett & Sons White Lead Company between 1839 and 1898 and was used for several decades subsequently by National Lead Industry.

It later served as home to the Sedutto’s Ice Cream Factory; that structure was abandoned in the 1990s, damaged by multiple fires and razed by the city in 2001.

In December, EPA scientists collected roughly 60 jars of soil from the site for analysis. Some of the top soil samples were found to have 5,000 parts of lead per million, and the subsoil had between 25,000 and 50,000 parts per million, EPA officials said yesterday.

Standards set for a residential property are below 400 parts per million. Lead exposure is known to cause brain damage in young children, and can also have adverse health consequences for adults.

Passers-by might have come into contact with the substance when dust got kicked off the wheels of construction trucks, which, until recently, rumbled in and out of the lot or when they splashed through storm drainage on the street, which also was determined to be unsafe.

“We needed to take interim action to address the storm run-off and the trucks,” said EPA senior coordinator for the project Nick Magriples, adding the storm drainage was immediately rerouted and the lot closed to trucks.

But those numbers do not tell the whole story.

The state Department of Health, which conducted tests on the samples provided by the EPA, determined that the surface soil had lead concentrations of up to 37,100 parts per million.

Lead in samples of dust collected from nearby streets was up to 2,760 parts per million, according to the state Department of Health.

“The concentrations of lead detected in the on-site surface soil and the off-site road represent a significant public health concern if people, especially children, are exposed to them,” states a March 25 letter sent by the Health Department to the EPA.

“The rabbit that they pulled out of the hat surpassed anything that I would have even thought,” said Beryl Thurman, executive director of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy, who attended the meeting.

In 1981, the EPA tried to visit the site after receiving a voluntary report from National Lead Industry but went to the wrong address and closed the case, the agency confirmed yesterday. According to lore, the address of the property was given by Lead Industry as “Shore Road,” and, after getting lost on the South Shore, the agent closed the case.

Historic maps also show the lead production facility occupied a far larger swath of land in Port Richmond than the area currently being targeted, said Ms. Thurman.

In 2007, Brooklyn-based Perfetto Construction Inc. purchased the property at 2000 Richmond Terr. for $1.5 million.

According to an attorney for Cesere Perfetto, there was no indication at the time the site had lead contamination.

“He was told the site was clean and required no additional sampling,” said Michael Bogin of Sive, Paget & Riesel, adding his client had hoped to build his company headquarters on the site.

A violation was issued by the city Department of Buildings last May, when an inspector saw the site was being used as a transfer station, contrary to records indicating it was a vacant lot.

“He (Perfetto) is footing the bill and paying for a situation he did not create and is not responsible for,” said Bogin.

Whether the site will be safe enough to support an office building or any other use after the remediation will not be known until after the process is complete, EPA officials said.

It is also yet to be determined who will pay for the cleanup, and the cost is not yet known, they said.

Deborah Young
Staten Island Advance

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Entry filed under: Go Coastal, Public Waterfront, Staten Island. Tags: , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. brian burtner  |  April 5, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Accross the street at 2015 Richmond Terrace is where the lead plant made the lead.There should be action taken against the company that exists there now.Everyone that has worked there should be tested for lead exposure.

    Reply

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