Sections

‘Toxic’ worksite has Verizon employees fearing for lives

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

The union representing 150 Verizon workers has lodged a complaint against the telecommunication giant saying it had not done anything about cancer-causing benzene that is beneath their Gowanus Canal worksite.

The union, Local 109 of the Communication Workers of America, said Verizon may have violated state safety laws by not informing workers that benzene — a gasoline byproduct that can cause cancer if inhaled — was underneath their workplace.

The underground toxic plume was revealed last week in The Brooklyn Papers. Some engineers believe that the Verizon site is the epicenter of the spreading toxic cloud (see map).

“Let’s say 10 years down the line we get sick and it can be attributed to the high benzene. What happens then?” asked Jasper Clarke, a field technician who has worked at the site for a decade.

Verizon used the Third Avenue office and parking lot as a fuel station until the late 1990s when the cost of insuring the station’s underground gas tanks became too great, workers at the site said. In the decades before the tanks were removed, there were five oil spills there, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

One worker said that employees at the canal-front repair station had not been protected from harmful vapors when some gas tanks were excavated a few years ago.

“There was no warning of hazardous materials, no gas masks, nothing,” said Marion Mike, a shop steward with Local 109. “The only thing they told us was that we couldn’t park [on the site] while they were digging.”

Clarke said he now wondered whether two co-workers who recently died of cancer had gotten the disease from working there.

“They worked here for 10 years before they got sick,” he said.

A spokesman for Verizon told The Brooklyn Papers that the company “was reviewing the reports of the engineers and the history and uses” of the site.

“In all likelihood, we are not the source of the problem,” said the spokesman, John Bonomo, adding that oil spills on the site had been cleaned in 2003.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.