‘Wheel’ anxiety rolling thru - Dangerous truck cargos spark concerns about safety

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Residents along the borough’s designated truck corridors continue to express concerns about the types of trucks that rumble through their neighborhoods.

Their latest anxieties follow a recent story in this newspaper about trucks coming through the borough hauling contaminants from the scheduled clean-up of a former manufactured gas plant (MGP) in Far Rockaway.

“After I read the story I contacted the spokesperson from the DEC (state Department of Environmental Conservation) to talk about the route, and I also spoke with [Rep.] Yvette Clarke’s office and [City Councilmember] Bill de Blasio’s office to try to get more information,” said Lauren Collins, co-founder of the Windsor Terrace Alliance (WTA).

Collins said she was told the DEC was doing another public meeting in Far Rockaway, and the WTA reached out to the Albemarle Neighborhood Association about holding a joint meeting in the community.

“There may be other toxic things going through that we don’t know about. I’m sure the DEC can answer questions and put people’s worries at ease,” said Collins.

Collins and Kensington resident Jack Wallace say that residents have been particularly concerned about truck traffic along Caton Avenue.

The thoroughfare is a city Department of Transportation (DOT) authorized truck route and runs past two schools – P.S 130 and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Elementary and Middle School - along the border of Windsor Terrace and Kensington.

“I’m not an alarmist here. My biggest concern is who is monitoring the trucks and what is their contingency plan is if something happens,” said Wallace.

“The biggest issue is Caton Avenue being a truck route itself when it’s a residential strip while Church Avenue [nearby] is more of a commercial strip,” said Wallace.

The contaminants expected to be trucked through the borough will come from the dormant Far Rockaway site currently owned by National Grid. In 1998 the site was added to the State’s Registry for Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites as a Class 2 Site.

A Class 2 site “poses a significant threat to the public health or the environment and requires remedial action.”

Among the contaminants scheduled to be excavated and trucked away are coal tar, which is a carcinogenic, and cyanide.

According to DEC spokesperson Lori O’Connell, the trucks will enter Brooklyn via the Marine Parkway Bridge. They will proceed north on Flatbush Avenue and then turn left on Church Avenue and proceed on Church Avenue until Prospect Expressway.

The trucks will then go north on the Prospect Expressway to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway to the Verrazano Bridge and Staten Island.

All of these streets are DOT designated thru-truck routes, said O’Connell.

O’Connell said there will be one more public meeting prior to the start of work, which has not yet been scheduled.

The DEC doesn’t usually make notifications for residents on a truck route, but information about the truck routes will be made available at the document repositories for the site, in the fact sheet, and the upcoming public meeting, said O’Connell.

O’Connell and other DEC officials said the trucked contaminants would likely begin their journey to a proper sanitation facility in New Jersey about a month after construction begins.

“Each truck is inspected and cleaned to ensure the cover is secure and that no contaminated material is on the outside of the truck,” said O’Connell.

“In the event of an accident or spill, the driver would first notify emergency services if there are any injuries, then they are to notify the site immediately who will then notify the DEC for the proper spill response. Spill response will follow state regulations,” she added.

Meanwhile, one official source noted that other contaminants are often transported through Brooklyn via these designated truck routes.

The Fire Department of New York City usually is the permitting agency for the transport of these materials, said a DOT spokesperson.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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