State Forces Cleanup of Blauvelt Laundry; DEC Asserts Business Contaminated Site

BY ROBERT KNIGHT
CITY EDITOR
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation is forcing the remedial cleanup of an allegedly contaminated small strip mall in Blauvelt. Once the owner of the business has made an initial cleanup, in accordance with state requirements, the DEC will then seek government “Superfund” monies to complete the task.

According to a DEC press release, the contaminated site is a quarter-acre parcel of land at 549 Western Highway in Blauvelt, just north of the Blauvelt Public Library and across the street from the Blauvelt Fire Department.

The site contains a one-story cinderblock building, constructed in the 1950s, containing three retail stores, a florist, a deli/convenience store and the Blauvelt Laundry, which has existed at this location since the late 1960s. The deli was known for years as “The Scoop,” a popular stationary and ice cream shop.

The mall, on the east side of Western Highway, is separated from the library by another small strip mall of about the same size that is not involved in the DEC proceeding. The library is also not involved.

Background

According to the state DEC, the laundry has thoroughly contaminated the entire site through negligent dumping of cleaning agent tetrachloroethene (PCE), also known as perchloroethene, the primary ingredient used by commercial dry cleaners and laundries to clean clothes.

The state agency learned of the contamination some time ago, it said, and has already investigated by digging seven monitoring well on the quarter-acre site and taking soil samples at multiple depths from 16 boring locations. Two indoor air samples were taken within the building and three soil vapor samples were taken from below the structure’s concrete slab floor.

PCE contamination was found to be six times the permissible level, measured at an average of 8.9 parts per million, whereas the permitted maximum is 1.3 ppm. Trichloroethylene (TCE) was also detected, as were other non-permissible chemicals, and PCE was also detected at higher than permitted levels from the indoor air samples.

The site is zoned by the Town of Orangetown as a community shopping district, and is surrounded by land used for a variety of purposes, including the library, fire department, residential, commercial and light industrial. Much of the area was part of the vast World War II Army base known as Camp Shanks.

Initial studies of the site show it contains a combination of moist, reddish sand and dark brown silt, with gravel and cobble inclusions about 10 feet below ground level. Further borings found bedrock of solid fine to medium grained massive red sandstone another 10 feet down that was so deep its full depth could not be measured.

Next Steps

The DEC says in its press release that now that the investigation is complete and the contamination confirmed to its satisfaction, the agency is now proposing an Interim Remedial Measure, or IRM, to expedite the cleanup of the site.

The site has been declared a Class 2 site in the State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites, also known as the state’s Superfund Sites, which means it represents “a significant threat to public health or the environment,” and for which a thorough cleanup is required.

To identify what must be done in the cleanup effort, the DEC will now issue the IRM, which details the required remedial actions. It has already prepared a draft IRM, and a full copy of the document is available for public inspection at the Blauvelt Free Library at 541 Western Highway. It can also be viewed at the DEC’s region 3 office covering Rockland County, located at 21 South Putt Corners Road in New Paltz.

Draft Plan

The draft IRM the DEC has prepared calls for four preliminary steps the laundry must take to remedy the contaminated site, all under DEC supervision. The excavation and off-site disposal of the contaminated soils identified near the back of the laundry building.

2.     Installation of a sub-slab depressurization system similar to a radon mitigation system, underneath the on-site building followed by post-installation and indoor air samplin, evaluation of the potential for off-site vapor intrusion and groundwater sampling.

Before the draft plan becomes a final plan, the DEC is now soliciting public comments on the plan, so it can be amended or expanded as necessary.

The public, including neighbors, Blauvelt area residents, public officials and other interested parties are therefore invited to view the draft documents at the library and submit any comments they may desire. The comments can support the draft IRM, oppose it or recommend changes or additions.

Once revised and completed the plan will be shared with the New York State Department of Health for their input before it becomes a final document, and the works is ordered to proceed.

Input Sought

“Upon completion of the work, a Construction Completion report will be prepared that documents the activities that were performed,” the press release asserts, concluding that the DEC “will keep the public informed throughout the investigation and cleanup of the site.”

What the press release did not state, or even hint at, was the projected cost of the cleanup, and who is responsible for what portion of the project, the cleaning firm or the state Superfund. Instead the six-page document merely notes almost in passing that the DEC will apply for Superfund monies once the laundry does its share of the work, whatever that may be.

It did give contact people at two state agencies, however, noting that anyone with questions or comments about the document can first contact them for additional information.

For project related questions, the release suggests contacting Wayne Mizerak at the DEC’s Division of Environmental Remediation at 625 Broadway in Albany, reachable at 518-402-9657 and by e-mail at wjmizera@gw.dec.state.ny.us

For site-related questions, interested parties can contact Bridget Boyd at the State Department of Health at Empire State Plaza Tower Room 1787 in Albany, reachable at 518-402-7860 or by e-mail at BEEI@health.state.ny.us