A former plastics factory across the street from a children’s playground in Greenpoint is finally getting cleaned up.
The state announced this week that it has declared the former Nuhart and Company headquarters on the corner of DuPont and Franklin Streets a Superfund site and will begin removing dangerous plastic compounds that have leaked into the soil and groundwater below.
A state Department of Environmental Conservation investigation in April revealed the presence of a large plume under the western edge of the factory and off-site beneath the sidewalk on Clay Street and Franklin Street.
The company closed in 2004, but left 12 underground storage tanks where a mix of plasticizers — chemical additives that increase the plasticity and fluidity of a material — have been found.
State officials believe that it is unlikely that residents would have come into contact with the polluted soil since it remains well below the ground’s surface, but cautioned that exposure to the chemicals could occur if the site were redeveloped in the future, turning over the soil.
A state environmental official confirmed that the agency has notified the owner of the site of its Superfund listing, but would not comment about liability.
“We do reserve the right to seek cost recovery from any party that does not conduct a clean-up,” said Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Maureen Wren.
The property has been used for manufacturing purposes since 1887, where it has served as a boiler shop, a light fixture factory, and a soap factory. By 1940, it had been converted to a plastics manufacturing warehouse, until it was bought by Nuhart and Company’s Sol Graf in 1983.
For 21 years, Nuhart made vinyl siding, sheet metal, foam rubber and asbestos sheeting, as Graf hired many new Soviet Jewish immigrants to make up his workforce.
Graf’s hiring practices were admirable, providing well-paying jobs to a new immigrant community, but Greenpoint environmental advocates criticized working conditions inside the plant for years.
Graf, now living in New Jersey, did not return calls for comment.
Laura and Mike Hofmann, who live two blocks away, said they smelled sewage-tinted odors from the factory.
“It was from that place,” said Mike Hofmann.
Facing city environmental violations, the company closed and moved instead of fixing the problem. The site is now a storage facility for plastics wrapping and resins, but with the waterfront rezoned for residential use, developers have shown interest in building residential towers on the corner.
Laura Hofmann claims that her family has seen a “decrease in symptoms of illness” since the facility closed.
©2010 Community News Group
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