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No funds for clean-up of old West Side site

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More than a year after alerting the community to contamination at the old West Side factory in Jamaica, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has not cleaned up the site because of a lack of funds.

The four-acre site at 107-10 180th St. was heavily contaminated by dry cleaning chemicals, DEC officials told Community Board 12 and the Brinkerhoff Action Association last year.

The site is currently used by the Atlantic Bus Company to store school buses.

After starting studies to determine the best way to handle the contamination, state officials now have run out of money to carry out the soil cleanup, said DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes.

“We do have funds for investigations on and off-site, but no funds for the final remedy,” he said.

Gov. George Pataki has introduced a bill that would fund such clean-up projects, but the state Legislature has not taken action to approve it, said Constantakes and Manuel Caughman, president of the Brinkerhoff Action Association.

Constantakes said the money originally earmarked for the cleanup ran out in March. Last September, the DEC was planning a $4 million soil cleanup and launched feasibility studies, but without funds all plans have now stalled.

“They haven’t done any work since last fall,” Caughman said of the DEC. “As of right now, we are anxiously awaiting the start of this project.”

Caughman said studies show that nearby wells need to be opened by 2005, so “it is important that we get this site cleaned up as soon as possible.”

At Community Board 12, District Manager Yvonne Reddick also would like the cleanup to move forward.

“Things are not progressing the way I would like to see them progressing,” Reddick said. Her board covers Jamaica, St. Albans and part of Springfield Gardens.

Reddick said she believes the project has been put on the back burner despite the high level of contamination.

“It is very, very annoying that someone can give you information about contamination, but nobody can come and tell me when the problem can be solved,” she said. “They got the community upset and then they walked away. This problem has been taken way too lightly. This community deserves better.”

State Department of Health officials say the chemicals have been in the soil since the 1970s, but do not pose any threat to the current water supply.

Caughman said the DEC informed the community about the contamination about a year and a half ago, letting them know it was high on the toxic scale.

“It needs immediate action,” Caughman said. “It is one of the top numbers in the state for cleanup.”

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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