Pol takes action after asbestos stalls controversial Gravesend waste transfer station construction

One local politician has already penned a letter to the governor in response to the discovery of asbestos at the controversial South Brooklyn Marine Transfer Station that has since put the long-protested project on hold.

As this paper previously reported, work on the controversial transfer station – a project that has been protested time and time again both before and after its groundbreaking – has been put on pause after workers at the site removing an underground concrete duct bank unearthed what has since been confirmed to be non-friable asbestos containing material (ACM) earlier this month.

“We sent out a letter to the governor in which we’re basically demanding that, until [the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC)] fulfill all the requirements, including supplying the certification that the facility was properly closed and that all of the contaminants were safely discarded, that there should be no work done,” said Assemblymember Bill Colton, who penned the letter. “That all construction be halted until they find that the incinerator was safely closed.”

The letter was co-signed by co-chairs of Colton’s Anti-Waste Station Task Force Democratic District Leaders Nancy Tong and Charles Ragusa. Copies were sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio, DSNY Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 2 Director Steven Zahn.

The construction of the waste transfer station, which community leaders and residents have vocally opposed but which the city insists is an integral part of its overall solid waste management plan in which each borough is supposed to handle its own trash stream, requires dredging at the problematic site – once home to the former long-loathed Bensonhurst incinerator, that was found to be operating without a permit from the 1950s through the 1980s, and which left behind it a variety of toxic substances in the water, along with unexploded World War II munitions at the bottom of Gravesend Bay.

The public was first informed of the discovery of ACM – made March 1 and confirmed by lab testing on March 2 – by Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia at the board’s March meeting.

“The area will remain secure and undisturbed until a licensed asbestos abatement subcontractor can remove the concrete duct bank in accordance with the approved asbestos removal plan,” she told attendees, stressing also that, prior to implementing the removal plan, notification will be given to both the board’s office and to the affected businesses adjacent to the site as to when the work to remove it will take place, and just what will be done to extract it safely.

Still, local politicians have contended that it’s too little, too late, and that the parties involved need to put their money – or, to be specific, their paperwork – where their mouths are.

“Over and over again, the city keeps shortcutting things,” Colton told this paper, stressing that, above all else, the city has refused to present the proper documentation that ensures that the former incinerator was properly closed and cleaned out. “They ask us to trust them and, when we don’t trust what they say, we’re proven right. Enough is enough.

“We said we didn’t think [the contaminants] were properly removed from the site,” he went on. “We asked them to produce the proper certificates, and they said they couldn’t find them, but that everything was going to be fine.”

Councilmember Mark Treyger – another politician strongly opposed to the project – agreed that everything is far from fine.

“I am deeply concerned but I am not shocked by this finding,” he told this paper. “Assemblymember Colton and his Anti Waste Station Task Force have been warning city officials for years that there’s very bad stuff, not just in the ground water of Gravesend Bay, but at the site of the former incinerator where now they’re constructing this waste transfer station.

“I remember during many of the public hearings, [city agencies] said, ‘Don’t worry, there’s nothing too bad down there.’ Well, look at the track record so far.”

When asked for an update on the current status of either the site or its stop work order, a spokesperson for DDC, which is handling the project for DSNY, told this paper that the agency is “still working to select a licensed asbestos abatement subcontractor so that [it] can implement the removal plan,” promising to work closely with both DSNY and the community moving forward.

According to DSNY, the station’s construction is anticipated to be completed by the end of this year and is slated to be operational by spring, 2018.

With more questions than there are answers, both Colton and Treyger have vowed to take whatever steps necessary to ensure their constituents’ safety and see that work on this site comes to an end until the city can back its claims that all is fine and dandy.

“We thought that now, especially when the Environmental Protection Agency might not be as efficient as it’s been in previous years, that the governor might want to step up to the plate,” said Colton. “We need the city to step up to the plate.”

Updated, 3/23, to include a response from DDC.

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