Officials Tour Long Island Superfund Sites

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy  toured two hazardous waste sites on Long Island this week to highlight the success of the federal Superfund law in protecting the health of people who live and work near contaminated sites.

Mayor Donald Brudie of Garden City and Mayor Wayne J. Hall, Sr. of Hempstead joined the federal officials to mark progress on the cleanup of the Old Roosevelt Field Contaminated Ground Water Area Superfund site in Garden City and the completed cleanup of the Pasley Solvents and Chemicals Superfund site in Hempstead.

Superfund is the federal cleanup program established to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. When sites are placed on the Superfund list of the most contaminated waste sites, the EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. Cleanups are only funded by taxpayer dollars when responsible parties cannot be found or are not financially viable.

“The ground water on Long Island is the source of drinking water for a huge population, making it especially important to protect it from contamination,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Today, Congresswoman McCarthy, Mayor Brudie, Mayor Hall and I got a first-hand look at how the federal Superfund program is protecting the health of people who rely on their ground water as a safe source of drinking water. In Garden City, the cleanup is working well and in Hempstead, the EPA achieved the ultimate goal, a complete cleanup that fully protects people and the environment.”

Many Superfund sites on Long Island, including the two sites toured this week, have contaminated the ground water with volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds can easily evaporate into the air and many are known to cause or are suspected of causing cancer.

Cleanups of Superfund sites have obvious public health and environmental benefits, but they also produce jobs. In 2011, an estimated 1,766 full-time jobs were created through Superfund cleanup projects in New York State.

The tour began at an EPA constructed water treatment plant at the Old Roosevelt Field site in Garden City. The site was added to the Superfund list in May 2000 after two public drinking water wells at the site were found to be contaminated with the volatile organic compounds, tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene. The U.S. military began using the site as an airfield prior to World War I and continued to use it as a commercial airport until it closed in May 1951. It is currently the location of the Roosevelt Field Shopping Mall and Garden City Plaza.

In 1999, Garden City installed a system to treat the drinking water. In 2011, the EPA constructed a new ground water treatment system at the site that pulls ground water from underneath the site, treats it to remove contamination and pumps it back into the ground water. The public water supply is routinely tested by Garden City to ensure compliance with federal and state drinking water standards. The treatment system visited today was constructed with renewable building materials and designed to blend into the surrounding architecture. The cleanup is being funded with federal dollars.
The second stop on the tour was the Pasley Solvents and Chemicals Superfund site in Hempstead. It was placed on the Superfund list in 1986 and was taken off the list in September 2011 after the cleanup was determined by the EPA to be complete. The Pasley Solvents and Chemicals site is a former chemical distribution facility that stored and transferred a wide range of volatile organic compounds, including hydrocarbons and solvents. The site was formerly owned by Commander Oil Corporation, which sold the property in 2003 to another company. The Metropolitan Transit Authority operates a police station there today.

The cleanup of the Pasley Solvents and Chemical site was conducted and paid for by the Commander Oil Corporation, with EPA oversight. Several technologies were used to remove contaminants from both the soil and the ground water, ultimately removing approximately 14,000 pounds of volatile organic compounds. The ground water and soil cleanup work was completed in 2004. The EPA removed the Pasley Solvents and Chemicals site from the Superfund list after several rounds of assessment and monitoring to make sure the cleanup was successful. The site no longer poses a threat to public health or the environment.

For more information about Superfund sites on Long Island and across the country, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund.