Fight to prevent medical waste transfer station from opening reaches new stage

Local activists are bracing for the next battle in their effort to keep a medical waste transfer station out of Canarsie.

Earlier this month, Louis Alexander, an assistant commissioner at the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) upheld an administrative law judge’s decision that could allow the proposal by CMW Industries for 100-02 Farragut Road, where the company now operates an ambulette service, to move forward.

“Everybody is sitting tight now to see what their next move is,” noted Melba Brown, the Democratic district leader in the 58th A.D.

While ALJ Helene Goldberger had stipulated that changes be made to the proposed operation, she had declined to stop the plan from proceeding.

She had also denied efforts by Assemblymember Nick Perry, City Councilmember Charles Barron and the South Canarsie Civic Association to be considered as parties to the matter, with standing to challenge rulings made regarding the facility, by determining that none of them had “raised an adjudicable issue.”

In his decision, Alexander also affirmed the negative declarationmade by DEC regarding the facility, indicating that, in DEC’s view, the facility would not substantively impact the surrounding community.

Finally, Alexander ruled that subsequent legislation requiring certification by the operator that the facility would be in keeping with the zoning at the site did not render the application – which had previously been declared complete – incomplete. However, he said CMW would be required to provide such certificationbefore “the final issuance of any permit for the project.”

The legislation, which was passed last year, was sponsored by Perry and State Senator John Sampson, two of the legislators who have been fighting the facility.

Alexander also said it is not up to DEC to “adjudicate legal issues concerning compliance with local zoning.” While acknowledging receipt of a letter from the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) indicating that the C8-1 zoning at the location would not permit the facility to operate as of right, the commissioner wrote, “Issues concerning the consistency of a project with local zoning must be decided by the local agency with appropriate jurisdiction, subject to judicial review if necessary.”

Residents have repeatedly expressed concern that the facility would impact the quality of life and health of the community. In particular, they have objected to the additional traffic that would be created, as well as the possibility of hazardous materials being transported and stored in the community.

“It’s not secure, “ stressed Brown, pointing out that there were many senior citizens and children living in the vicinity. “Anything that could jeopardize their health is a concern,” she emphasized.

Perry, for his part, said he was “very disappointed” by the DEC’s decision. Nonetheless, he expressed confidence that the legislation he and Sampson had sponsored would prevent the facility from opening.

“I don’t take it for granted, because I believe the applicant is quite intent on going ahead,” Perry noted.

Nonetheless, he told this paper, “I still feel strongly we are on the right track.” He said that DOB officials had told him that, “the operation would be illegal under current zoning laws.”

While, Perry added, the facility could apply for a variance, there are numerous hurdles that it would have to meet. While financial hardship is one, Perry remarked, that hardship “can’t be self-imposed.” Given that CMW knew the zoning on the property prior to applying for the permit, Perry added, “I don’t believe they would qualify.”

Should CMW certify – as required by the legislation – that the facility would be permitted by the zoning, Perry went on. “I will do everything to make sure there would be a perjury case coming out of it. There’s nothing personal here but I just think, in the best interests of everyone, the developer should start looking for an alternate site, hopefully no anywhere close to the border of the 58th A.D.”

As much as 15 tons of regulated medical waste – including such substances as formaldehyde and mercury — could be sent to the facility each day; in addition, according to DEC, the facility could handle “an undefined quantity of conditionally exempt hazardous waste.” This would be the first such facility in Brooklyn. Currently, CMW transports the medical waste it collects to a facility in the Bronx.

If the plan goes through, CMW, which is a licensed regulated medical waste transporter, would utilize approximately 1,500 square feet within the existing building, with medical waste brought to the property in cargo vans or box trucks stored inside a 40-foot tractor-trailer container, which would be taken away when filled. The waste could not be held for more than 10 days. The facility could operate, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

CMW owner Gershon Klein, has repeatedly contended that the facility would pose no risk to the surrounding neighborhood.

At a public hearing held earlier as part of the DEC permitting process, he had said, “It’s not impacting Canarsie. We’re not treating waste. It’s no different than if we had a grocery store and were getting boxes. I don’t believe it’s dangerous. It may be dangerous, but not any more dangerous than Brookdale Hospital.”