Plume Plans Draw Praise & Ire

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While local public officials praised the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation plans for continued remediation at the contaminated site at 1111 Marcus Avenue in Lake Success and its plan to further protect residents from the contaminated water plume that has advanced northward past the Northern State Parkway and on to Great Neck School District property, several speakers at the public meeting last week at Great Neck South Middle School had misgivings about the department’s plans saying that they didn’t go far enough or fast enough.
UNISYS_070414ALake Success Mayor Ronald S. Cooper was the first to speak after presentations by the DEC’s Girish Desai, Jim Harrington and the Board of Health’s Renata Ockerby on the proposal to contain the offsite contamination and the changes proposed for treatment at the Marcus Avenue site.
“We, along with our consultants, believe that the plume poses no current health hazards to our residents,” Cooper continued. “We have concluded…that this (the proposal) is an acceptable step. We have waited 17 years to come to this point and I believe that it is not in the best interests of the community to wait any longer.” Several times during the three-hour meeting residents were assured by company representatives or officials that the current water supply was safe and that there was no danger from any toxins that might be emanating from 1111 Marcus.
But some were not impressed. Lake Success resident Carol Bernstein, who has lived in the village since 1980, was extremely critical of the DEC’s plans. She charged that the original plan enacted was chosen by the DEC because it was the least expensive.
“All these years later I’m sitting here and hearing ‘we’ll choose option no. 2 because it’s cheaper.’ I see in all of this it’s only economics that’s going on.” The plan that the DEC favors is estimated to cost $32 million dollars. Other plans could run from $55 million to as much as $97 million.
Former Mayor Robert Bernstein wondered why the plan wasn’t more extensive and didn’t include the building of an additional full water treatment plant. He also expressed concern that numerous inactive wells in Queens might be reactivated by New York City and make cleanup more difficult.
Cooper, who has been involved as a trustee and mayor for 16 years, said other more extensive and expensive proposals had been considered by the DEC but he felt that those other proposals would take more time and could pose infrastructure issues. The DEC is accepting public comments about the proposals until July 14 (see end of story).
Cooper also requested that the DEC include in its final plan provisions that Lake Success be continually informed of the effectiveness of water protections and given full access to all reports. The site of the original contamination was used by Unisys Corporation for manufacturing from 1941 to 1995, and was subsequently owned by Lockheed Martin Corporation, which has accepted financial responsibility. Cooper requested that Lockheed Martin reimburse the village for its costs in using consultants.
The proposal for offsite treatment includes 1) continuing the groundwater extraction system already in place on Great Neck School property since 2006, 2) installing an additional extraction well at 1111 Marcus to increase the amount of water treated and 3) establishing procedures to insure that drinking-water standards are maintained. Modifications to the arrangements made in 1997 include provisions to monitor intrusions in any new construction and stricter controls over how the site may be used in the future.
During the years that Unisys operated, chemicals were disposed of through a system of drywells. The resulting contamination continues to spread to the northwest, and has already reached past the Long Island Expressway. Lockheed Martin no longer owns the property (individual businesses now occupy the spaces) but continues to work cooperatively with the DEC.
Sitting on the panel at the meeting were three representatives from the environmental consulting firm of Arcadis U.S., hired by Lockheed Martin, which also sent representatives.
Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel also spoke in support of the proposed plan. “I hope that this becomes a model for the rest of the state and for the rest of the country,” she said.
County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum, a former director of the Water Authority of Great Neck North, said, “I’m very happy that we now have a plan that seems to be very workable.”
Senator Jack Martins was the final speaker. Acknowledging many residents’ unhappiness over how long the project has taken and whether or not the proposals were comprehensive enough, he said, “I think everyone in this room wishes that this had been done 17 years earlier, but this is a step in the right direction.”
Public comments about the proposals are still welcome by the DEC until July 14 and can be sent to gvdesai@gw.dec.state.ny.us. More information is available at www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/97617.html.

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