DEC expands Meeker plume testing

State Environmental and Health officials released new findings regarding a soil gas plume underneath Meeker Avenue in the northeast corner of Greenpoint, which include the discovery of very high levels of a toxin in the groundwater on an industrial lot.

At a public meeting on February 4 in St. Cecilia’s Church Auditorium (24 North Henry St.), Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Project Manager David Harrington noted that soil gas samplings under the southwest corner of Norman and Kingsland Avenues found 73 million parts per billion of PCE, or perchloroethylene, a chemical commonly used in industrial dry cleaning.

“We got hit in the face with it before we got our gear on,” said Harrington. “It smelled like white-out times a thousand with a lot of sugar thrown in for a couple of seconds until my nasal lining burned out. That’s pure product. If you smell something like that, that’s when you know you’ve got the good stuff.”

Overshadowed by the Greenpoint Oil Spill and sediment contamination in Newtown Creek that has led the EPA to recommend Superfund, the Meeker Avenue Plumes first gained public attention in winter 2008. The state has quietly proceeded to test soil and groundwater since they first discovered soil gas plumes with significant concentrations of PCE and TCE. Over a period of two and a half years, the DEC has made 110 soil borings, 35 temporary groundwater points, 63 soil gas wells and 75 groundwater monitoring wells to sample the area, which is bounded by Newtown Creek, Norman Avenue, Kingsland Avenue and Withers Street.

While the DEC traced the contaminants to five former industrial sites in East Williamsburg and Greenpoint, including the former Klink Cosmo Cleaners, the former Spic and Span Cleaners and Dyers and the ACME Steel Metal Works sites, the Department of Health (DOH) conducted sub-slab indoor air sampling in 63 residences and tested 45 homes in the project area in the past year.

Greenpoint resident and Center for Health and Environmental Justice coordinator Michael Schade said that the chemicals, which can migrate into people’s homes and apartments, can pose health hazards to residents in the long term if not mitigated effectively.

“The good news is DEC is testing homes in the community, which can help identify possible problems and prevent exposures,” said Schade. “I hope as many residents will take advantage of this unique opportunity to have their home tested this March. Having your home tested is easy, free, and will help ensure our community is healthier and safer for all.”

In the coming months, the DEC and DOH will expand both environmental sampling and mitigation treatments for homes in affected areas. The DEC will continue to pursue remuneration from responsible parties which could take years to recoup. Cleaning the contaminated sites could take even longer.

“This has been in the ground for 67 years. This is not going to be out in weeks or months. It is going to take years to remove this stuff,” said Harrington.

For more information about the plumes and to get your home tested, or if you have health related questions, call the New York State Department of Health at 1-800-458-1158, extension 2-7860.