More cleanup required

File photo

More cleanup required

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
3/3/2016


WEST ISLIP—Last Wednesday, the State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an official statement noting that the former site of Dzus Fasteners on Union Boulevard in West Islip had been reclassified to indicate a substantial environmental threat to the surrounding area. Less than a week later, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a DEC-proposed plan to extend state controls over previously unregulated solid waste streams while tightening current rules for managing existing landfills and waste facilities statewide.

Following extensive cleanup efforts in the 1990s to remove chrome and cadmium contamination in areas of nearby Willet’s Creek and Lake Capri, the Dzus Fasteners/DFCI site was reclassified a Class 4 Superfund site, which requires ongoing monitoring of the area to ensure the remediation was effective. However, during follow-up inspections in recent years, environmental engineers detected toxic materials still in the ground – particularly cadmium, which poses a “significant threat to human health and the environment.” 

“Additional contamination has been found in Willet’s Creek wetlands offsite of the Dzus Fasteners/DFCI property,” read the DEC notice. “This contamination is considered to have migrated from the 1-acre source area (leaching pools) prior to the leaching pools being removed (1991) and onsite soils being remediated (1996).”

Officials noted that the contamination “significantly” exceeds the cadmium sentiment screen value, indicating a “likely” adverse impact on aquatic life. The area’s status has since been altered to reflect the findings.

“Coastal flooding in the area uncovered another previously undetected area of contamination, which was discovered through our ongoing monitoring of the area,” read the DEC statement, which noted that no drinking water supplies were affected by the new contamination. “After a thorough investigation to determine the source of the additional cadmium contamination, the DEC determined that the site should be reclassified as a Class 2 Superfund site to expedite remediation of the site to ensure public health and safety.”

The public first learned of the news at an Islip Town Planning Board meeting that was reported on in the Islip Bulletin on Jan. 28 (“Big plans for Superfund site”) in which an applicant sought a change of zone from Industrial 1 District to Business 3 District for a 4-acre parcel on the property, located at the northeast corner of Union Boulevard and Beach Street. The space would be utilized for a QuickChek gas station with adjoining convenience store, a fast-food eatery with a drive-through, and a small strip mall for retail use. It was announced that upon inspection of the site, toxic materials were detected in the ground, including cyanide, arsenic and other heavy metals.

Environmental Engineer Michael Bluight stated that the new owners of the property would be willing to pay the full costs of remediating the site under DEC supervision.

“It will be substantial and also a substantial cost to our client,” said Bluight, who noted that the cost could amount to as much as $400,000.

Fourth District State Senator Phil Boyle has since contacted the DEC and demanded that they immediately hold public forums to address the contamination issue.

“When you have contaminants that threaten the health and safety of people, we need to respond immediately,” said Boyle, who has offered to assist in coordinating a community forum to address the contamination issues. “I will be working very closely with the state DEC and Department of Health (DOH) to ensure that they remain steadfast in the remediation efforts and communication responsibilities that keep the public safe.”

The Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Program (State Superfund Program) is the state’s method for identifying, investigating, and cleaning up sites where the disposal of hazardous waste may present a threat to public health and/or the environment. DEC officials announced that the state would conduct public meetings and hearings while initiating a public comment period as the cleanup plan is developed. 

“Community involvement is integral to the success of DEC’s Superfund program, and the state will provide opportunities beginning with an availability session in March to answer questions from the public regarding our ongoing remediation efforts,” said DEC officials. “Throughout the remediation process, the DEC will take appropriate steps to protect the public from potential exposure to the contaminated sediment.”  

 Meanwhile, the state released a comprehensive redraft of its solid-waste regulations earlier this week as part of a proposal designed to curb the practice of illegal dumping that has taken place in Islip Town and the surrounding region.

“[The regulations] will help reduce contamination threats while safeguarding natural resources so that we can ensure a healthier and safer environment for communities all across the state,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement.

Facets of the proposal include constant, persistent tracking of construction and demolition debris along with instructions designated to address color and contamination issues at mulch facilities.

“[The suggested rules would] address emerging threats posed by illegal dumping and large mulch facilities, while also easing regulatory burdens,” said acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in an accompanying statement.