Now that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has acknowledged that residential units in College Point have been – and continue to be – built on a contaminated landfill, concerned local residents want more active inspections and clean-up of the area.
After years of study, a 10,000-square-foot “hot spot” in the midst of Riverview Homes, 121st Street, north of 5th Avenue, was declared a “Superfund” site by DEP in April – because Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)-contaminated oil was found in the soil in 2007.
The area is called “College Point 3” in DEP reports, and is bounded by Riviera Court to the north, Capstan Court to the east, Cove Court to the south, and College Point Properties’ Soundview Pointe development to the west.
Much of this now-prime residential real estate north of 5th and Lax Avenues was created by a generation of illegal dumping, according to longtime resident Gary Bonelli, now a principal of LandServ Environmental Group in Long Island City.
“For years, the property owners turned a blind eye and allowed trucks to dump anything – rubble from gas stations, drums from factories. It was before the Clean Air Act and that section was basically one big junkyard.”
According to DEP spokesperson Maureen Wren, the Superfund designation “is the state’s program for identifying, investigating and cleaning up sites where consequential amounts of hazardous waste may exist.”
The next step in the process, she explained, “will be a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study to determine a final cleanup approach.”
Existing Riverview homes were tested and “the New York State Department of Health determined that no further action was required,” Wren said.
“The Soundview homes are safe,” said James Cervino, a scientist with LandServ who grew up in College Point. “The builder was forced to do a thorough clean-up before construction.” However, he explained, “Stuff was oozing into excavations from the adjacent property, so the developer sunk a barrier into the ground to keep it out.”
One problem, Cervino believes, is that the oily goo may migrate in other directions now that it is blocked from the Soundview site – even into the Powells Cove Estates site to the east.
Another problem is that, according to longtime residents, somewhere under all that dumped soil, lies an old barge that may be laden with a large quantity of unknown contaminants.
DEP acknowledges that “because of its proximity to the East River and Long Island Sound, this site presents a significant threat to the environment.”
That worries Cervino, also a marine biologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
“They only clean-up when they get caught,” Cervino lamented. “The safe thing to do is test more extensively.”
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The DEP has a Document Repository at the Poppenhusen Branch Library, located at 121-23 14th Avenue in College Point, where the public can review site specific documents and reports. For more information, visit www.dec.nyc.gov or www.LandServGroup.com.