Dzus still causing problems
WEST ISLIP—Last Wednesday, a large crowd of residents gathered at the West Islip High School auditorium to receive information from state officials regarding the upcoming remediation of areas around Willets Creek and Lake Capri.
Last month, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued an official statement noting that the former site of Dzus Fasteners on Union Boulevard in West Islip had been reclassified to a Class 2 Superfund site, indicating a substantial environmental threat to the surrounding area.
Following extensive cleanup efforts in the 1990’s to remove chrome and cadmium contamination in areas of nearby Willets 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.”
“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 notice. “Additional contamination has been found in Willets Creek wetlands offsite of the Dzus Fasteners/DFCI property. This contamination is considered to have migrated from the one-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 sediment 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. “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 DEC, along with the Departments of Health (DOH) and Law (DOL), is responsible for ensuring the cleanup of inactive hazardous waste disposal throughout the state. DEC and DOH representatives were on hand at the meeting to discuss the timeline of events leading up to the detection and what further objectives lie ahead.
Jim Harrington, director of Remedial Bureau A for the DEC Division of Environmental Remediation, said that additional samples will be taken at the site this spring and summer while the team evaluates different ways to fix the site. Afterwards, a proposed remedial action plan will be issued to the public, who will then be able to offer their comments, questions, and suggestions. At the close of the public comment period – projected to take place this fall – a final decision will be made and the actual work will commence. After the work is finished, further long-term monitoring will take place in the future.
Harrington said that the DEC first noticed a significant change in the water and sediment readings in 2010 after Hurricane Sandy.
“I don’t want to say Hurricane Sandy caused this,” said Harrington, “but there was lots of rain for over a three-day period at the same time Sandy came in. What we believe is that precipitation event mobilized a contamination that we didn’t know about and basically moved downstream into Lake Capri.”
Despite residents’ fears, Harrington said that it was perfectly okay to drink water from the tap.
“The water is not contaminated,” he said. “There is no cadmium in the water supply. The water that comes out of your tap is perfectly fine for whatever purpose.”
Harrington noted that samples have already been taken at the high school athletic fields and showed no contamination, while all middle school samples taken also displayed no levels of contamination except for one, which was slightly elevated.
“We will be taking more samples to confirm what we already know,” said Harrington, who noted that residents’ yards around water would be tested as well.
Payson Long, project manager for the DEC Division of Environmental Remediation, stated that they have noticed levels of cadmium in the fish in Lake Capri and that a fish advisory is in effect at the site as the team works to gather further samples and data.
“Because we have reclassified this as Class 2, we’re going to start looking a lot harder at this site,” said Long, who noted that the bulk of the extensive sampling will take place this spring/summer. “We’re going to look at the extent of the contamination. We’re going to see how deep it is, how wide it is, and we’re going to look in residents’ backyards to ensure that cadmium did not go out of Willets Creek. If it did, then we’re going to have to expand our search.”
Officials also encouraged residents along the creek to practice healthy gardening techniques.
“Wear gloves as you garden,” said Brad Wenskoski from the DOH. “You don’t want to bring soil back into your homes. You also want to rinse off any produce that goes below the ground or close to the ground surface.”
Fourth District State Senator Phil Boyle and 9th District Assemblyman Joseph Saladino were also present to alleviate the public’s concerns and assure everyone that they are doing everything in their power to ensure that the work is done swiftly, thoroughly and efficiently.
“What we’re really talking about are the houses along the creek and…[possibly] across the street,” said Boyle. “We’re not talking about four blocks away or even three blocks away.
“I can tell you that Saladino and I are going to fight very hard to get it cleaned up as quickly as possible,” continued Boyle. “We’ll get it done once and for all so we don’t have to hear of Dzus Fastener or Willets Creek ever again.”
“Don’t be afraid that we’re not watching,” said Saladino. “Because we’ll have our hands on the wheel the entire time throughout this process.
“What everyone has to know is that Boyle and I are going to keep on top of the folks you see here and their bosses,” continued Saladino. “If it was up to me, the machines to clean this up would be here tomorrow…There is a long process involved, but we’re going to make sure that each step gets done thoroughly, quickly and safely.”
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