Newtown Creek Alliance

Meeker Ave Plumes

Summary

The NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has identified several plumes of chlorinated solvents (TCE & PCE) in the soils and groundwater beneath Greenpoint and East Williamsburg. These plumes are collectively referred to by DEC as the “Meeker Ave. Plume”. The plumes are the result of decades of dumping and irresponsible manufacturing practices by historic and contemporary drycleaning and metalworking businesses. Testing conducted by DEC has confirmed that hazardous vapors from the Meeker Ave. contaminant plumes are intruding into residential properties in the area.

Home owners and businesses in the vicinity of the plumes are encouraged to contact DEC to have their property tested for vapor intrusion free of charge. To set up an appointment to have your home or business tested please contact Dawn Hettrick at the NYS Dept. of Health (DOH), (800) 458-1158 x27860. If a vapor intrusion problem is identified, DOH will install a mitigation system at no cost to the property owner.

Hazardous vapor intusion from the Meeker Ave. plumes is a substantial threat to human health. Fortunately, a properly installed and maintained mitigation system can eliminate the threat of hazardous vapor intrusion, protecting residents and employees from the impacts of future exposures.

Background

DEC, in cooperation with DOH, began investigating the Meeker Ave. Plumes in the Spring of 2007 after results from two separate investigations conducted by the Exxon Mobil Corporation and the New York State Department of Transportation documented that soil, soil gas, and groundwater at numerous locations throughout the area had been contaminated with chlorinated solvents. The primary contaminants of concern are tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). These compounds have historically been used for dry cleaning and removing grease from metal respectively.

DEC and DOH are offering sub-slab/indoor air sampling free of charge to residences located in the vicinity of soil gas wells where elevated concentrations of PCE and TCE were identified. Based on the results of the sub-slab/indoor air sampling to be conducted, the DEC and DOH will determine if ventilation systems are needed at residences within the site area. These ventilation systems, known as sub-slab depressurization systems (SSDS), are designed to withdraw air from beneath the structure. This is an active system which promotes a pressure difference between the inside and outside of a structure. These systems essentially prevent the ability of soil vapors to enter structures. These systems are widely used to prevent radon gas from entering structures in areas where radon gas is naturally occurring in rock. If offered, the SSDS will be installed free of charge.

DEC will be notifying the owners of properties that have been identified as sources of contamination. These affected parties will be given the opportunity to sign a consent order with the DEC, obligating them to further investigate and remediate (cleanup) the contamination at and emanating from their site. If these parties choose not to sign an order, the DEC will undertake the investigation and remediation of the site and subsequently pursue the affected party for cost recovery.

Why Should I Get My Home Tested?

DEC has identified toxic chemicals in Greenpoint and E. Williamsburg soils and groundwater that could potentially migrate into homes and businesses through a process known as “vapor intrusion”.  Some of these chemicals are toxic and have been linked to cancer and other serious health problems.  It’s important to get your property tested to determine whether or not chemicals are migrating into your home, so that DEC and DOH can take appropriate action to prevent this from occuring.  Note that just because you live above the plumes, it doesn’t necessarily mean chemicals are migrating into your home. Getting your home tested can offer you peace of mind by determining whether or not your home is safe from TCE and PCE vapor intrusion.  Testing is free and confidential. If your home is deterimined to have elevated levels of chemicals of concern, DEC and DOH will install a mitigation system free of charge to reduce your exposure and protect your home.

How Do I Get My Home Tested?

The NYS Dept. of Health and NYS Dept. of Environmental Conversation are offering free indoor and subslab air-sampling in certain areas above the Meeker Ave. Plumes. To set up an appointment to have your home or business tested please contact Dawn Hettrick at the NYS Dept. of Health, (800) 458-1158 x27860.

If a vapor intrusion problem is identified, DOH will install a mitigation system at no cost to the property owner. These mitigation systems, known as sub-slab depressurization systems, are designed to withdraw air from beneath your home’s foundation.  This prevents toxic soil vapors from entering homes and can help protect your family’s health.  They’re widely used to prevent radon gas from entering structures in areas where radon gas is naturally occurring. If offered, the system will be installed free of charge.

Tenants, Want Your Building to Get Tested?

If you’re a tenant, talk to your landlord about the contamination and encourage him/her to get their property tested.  If they are unwilling, contact Dawn Hettrick at the NYS Dept. of Health, (800) 458-1158 x27860, to discuss your concerns.

What About Property Values?

As residents in the neighborhood, we’re also concerned about property values.  We don’t want to see any decline in the value of homes or businesses in the area.  The most effective way to head this off is to pursue a thorough cleanup of the contamination to prevent any long-term impact on property values.

Initially, many property owners do not want to consider the possibility of vapor intrusion because they are worried, with good reason, that it may negatively impact property values. While the health effects of low-level exposure to volatile contaminants in one’s home are uncertain and long-term, the impact on property values is often immediate and undeniable. Some people believe that if vapors are not documented, they won’t experience economic losses.

However, once an area is known to be contaminated, the evidence—thus far—is that a systematic response either demonstrating that a home is clean or installing a mitigation system to make the air acceptable is the best way to protect or restore property values. In some cases property tax assessments can be reduced and in some communities residents have proposed local legislation or pursued legal action to recover economic damages from polluters.

What You Can Do to Help?

We need your help to ensure a full and thorough cleanup of contamination throughout the neighborhood.  Please contact us at newtowncreek@gmail.com if you can lend your expertise or enthusiasm to our cleanup efforts.  Here’s the top five things you can do today to help ensure a healthier Greenpoint / E. Williamsburg:

1) Write and call your city, state and federal elected-officials and ask them to push for a full mitigation and clean-up of the contamination.

2) Get your home tested for free by contacting the New York State Department of Health.  Contact Dawn Hettrick at the NYSDOH, (800) 458-1158 x27860.

3) Help educate other homeowners/tenants – pass out flyers, invite your neighbors over for coffee, etc.

4) Invite us to your group’s meeting for an informative presentation.

5) Educate yourself by reading the various documents on this website (see below).

Our Recommendations to the NYSDEC and NYSDOH

The Newtown Creek Alliance calls on DEC and DOH to take immediate action to protect human health and clean up the Meeker Ave. Plumes. DEC/DOH:

• Should work with the Newtown Creek Alliance to establish a cooperative vapor intrusion testing outreach effort for those residences potentially impacted by the Meeker Ave. Plumes.

• Should provide an accounting of their community outreach efforts so that the effectiveness of their communications strategies may be evaluated accurately and improved upon if necessary.

• Should provide a timeline for all aspects of their investigation, mitigation, and remediation efforts.

• Should mitigate the residences impacted by the Meeker Ave. Plumes and mitigation should proceed according to the most rapid schedule possible. Because the cost of mitigating homes and businesses with vapor intrusion problems is comparable to the cost of testing and because seasonal and daily variations make it difficult to accurately measure the true concentration of chlorinated solvents under foundations and in indoor air, mitigation systems should be offered to all the homes and businesses within the footprint of the plumes.

• Should remediate the Meeker Ave. plumes and remediation should proceed according to the most rapid schedule possible.

• Should work to revise the New York State air guideline for PCE of 100 ug/m3*.  DOH’s PCE-in-indoor-air guideline is 250 times higher than U.S. EPA’s Regional Screening Level of .41 ug/m3.

• Should work to revise the New York State air guideline for TCE of 5.0 ug/m3. DOH’s TCE-in-indoor-air guideline is two orders of magnitude higher than the most protective risk-based concentrations for TCE in air developed by California, Colorado, New Jersey and several EPA regional offices, which range from 0.016 to 0.02.

*ug/m3 = micrograms per cubic meter

News Coverage

Daily News. 2/18/10. “Probers unearth toxin shock in Greenpoint groundwater”

YourNabe.com. 2/17/10. “Activists ‘PERC’ up to new findings”

Gothamist. 2/16/10. “Greenpoint: Even More Polluted Than You Thought!”

The Brooklyn Paper . 2/16/10. “Pollution under Greenpoint? It’s worse”

New York Post . 2/10/10. “DEC expands Meeker plume testing”

Daily News. 2/19/09. “Rep. Velázquez Urges Brooklyn Residents To Cooperate With Health Investigation”

Daily News. 2/9/09. “Greenpoint to get greener, Superfund money to pay for nabe’s toxic cleanup”

Brooklyn Paper. 1/29/09. “Superfund to pay for Greenoint Cleanup”

Daily News. 12/9/08. “State Testing 450 Greenpoint Homes Sitting on Plume of Toxic Chemicals “.

New York Times. 12/7/08. “A Problem Rises to the Surface in Greenpoint”.

Greenpoint Star. 12/4/08. “Blooming Plumes Spells Greenpoint Doom”.

Educate Yourself – Learn More

DEC/DOH Meeker Ave. Plume Fact Sheet

DEC Meeker Ave. Plume Residential Air Sampling Report 2008 (summary, 4.2mb)

DEC Meeker Ave. Plume Residential Air Sampling Report 2008-2009 (summary, 1mb)

DEC Meeker Ave. Plume Trackdown Phase 1 report (introduction only, 196kb)

DEC Meeker Ave. Plume Trackdown Phase 2 report (introduction only, 580kb)

DEC Meeker Ave. Plume Trackdown Phase 3 report (introduction only, 692kb)

DEC Meeker Ave. Plume Trackdown Phase 4 report (introduction only, 643kb)

DEC Meeker Ave. Plume Trackdown Phase 5 report (introduction only, 575kb)

Meeker Ave. Plume Map (4mb, note that the layers can be toggled on and off)

Former Spic & Span Cleaners Remedial Investigation Fact Sheet – English (104kb)

Former Spic & Span Cleaners Remedial Investigation Fact Sheet – Polish (578kb)

Former Klink Kosmo Cleaners Remedial Investigation Fact Sheet – English (106kb)

Former Klink Kosmo Cleaners Remedial Investigation Fact Sheet – Polish (552kb)

PCE Standards Letter to NYSDOH

Results from the initial 2006/2007 ExxonMobil Greenpoint oil spill vapor intrusion and indoor air sampling investigation

Slide from the October 16th, 2007 DEC/DOH presentation in Greenpoint detailing two “areas of concern” where elevated levels of several chemicals were found during the 2006/2007 ExxonMobil Greenpoint oil spill vapor intrusion and indoor air sampling investigation

Center for Pubic Enmvironmental Oversight “A Stakeholder’s Guide to Vapor Intrusion”

DOH “Guidance for Evaluating Residential Soil Vapor Intrusion in the State of New York” and fact sheets on PCE and TCE

DEC “Vapor Intrusion Guidance” and “Strategy For Evaluating Soil Vapor Intrusion at Remedial Sites in New York”

NY State Assembly Report, “Vapor Intrusion of Toxic Chemicals: An Emerging Public Health Concern”

EPA Guide, “Building Radon Out: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Build Radon-Resistant Homes”. Radon sub-slab depressurization systems are identical to those used to mitigate vapor intrusion from chlorinated solvents or other VOCs.

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