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Gas Plant Site Report Catches Village by Surprise

Posted on 09 July 2014

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By Stephen J. Kotz

A report outlining how the former site of a manufactured gas plant in Sag Harbor should be managed, released in February, apparently slipped past village officials, who said this week they were unaware that it had been issued.

The report for the state Superfund site, which was the subject of an extensive cleanup project undertaken by its owner, National Grid, noted that it was not possible to remove all the toxins, despite a massive effort to remove contaminated soil and treat polluted groundwater.

Furthermore, it noted that certain use restrictions would be imposed on the property, once the site of a huge blue gas ball, at 5 Bridge Street as well as surrounding properties.

The existence of the report was the subject of an article in Sunday’s edition of Newsday. That article also reported that National Grid had filed suit in federal court seeking some $50 million in damages to cover the cost of the cleanup from UGI Utilities, based in Reading, Pennsylvania, which is the successor to the company that ran the plant from 1885 to 1902.

The site was used for manufacturing gas by processing coal on site from 1859 until 1927, the state Department of Environmental Conservation reported in 1999 when it placed the property on the state Superfund site. The property was polluted by a variety of volatile organic compounds and hydrocarbons that leached into the soil and groundwater from coal tar dumped at the site.

Mayor Brian Gilbride said on Monday that he believed village officials had received a copy of the report, issued by AECOM, the design engineer for the project, in February, but it had been misplaced. “It was not stamped in,” he said. “Nobody knows how it got here.”

Mr. Gilbride said he had not read the report but he said he was concerned that restrictions, which include prohibitions on installing private wells, the planting of vegetable gardens, or extensive disturbance of the soil had been imposed on the site and neighboring properties as part of an agreement with the DEC.

“There is an obligation for those people to come and clean it up,” he said.

But Trustee Ed Deyermond, who served as the village’s liaison to the cleanup project, the bulk of which was completed between 2008 and 2009, said it should be no surprise that not all the toxins could be collected.

Mr. Deyermond said that DEC officials held at least two public informational meetings at which they stressed “to recapture all the contaminants in the ground was virtually impossible. Some of the material was 90 some feet deep.”

“I think they devised a plan to get 90-some percent of what was in the ground,” he continued. “Based on the findings of the DEC, the project was quite successful.”

Mr. Deyermond said that it was understood that the contamination spread off site, but he added that was not aware there would be use limits imposed on neighboring properties. “I don’t recall that aspect of it,” he said.

Wendy Ladd, a spokeswoman for National Grid, said in an email on Tuesday that “National Grid has completed the cleanup of the Sag Harbor MGP under the oversight of the NYSDEC. Prior to the cleanup, the NYSDEC held two public meetings in Sag Harbor to present proposed cleanup alternatives for the site. The presentations described each of the elements of the proposed alternative which included the use restrictions, a site management plan and post cleanup testing requirements and certifications which are consistent with MGP cleanups in New York State.”

The report notes that the contaminants were found both near the surface and deep below it. Because the groundwater table can be as shallow as 6 to 18 inches in the area, when a high tide comes in, contaminants spread easily offsite.

During the cleanup, much of the area was sealed off, so contractors could remove contaminated. The site management report notes that more than 500 tons of concrete and debris, another 1,589 tons of soil and concrete and more than 30,000 tons of soil were trucked off the site. Another 15 million gallons of groundwater was treated at the site before being pumped into the bay.

 

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