Plan to clean Jamaica site faces shortfall in funding

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Six years after discovering contaminated wells at the West Side Corporation factory site in Jamaica, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has decided on a plan to clean the site, but the next hurdle will be funding it, a DEC spokeswoman said.

The plan for the site at 107-10 180th St. in Jamaica includes the installation of a high-capacity well and treatment system to filter water before pumping it back to the ground and a long-term monitoring program, said Jennifer Meicht of the DEC.

The site was investigated by the DEC in 1999, three years after the agency discovered that traces of dry-cleaning chemicals stored at the warehouse had seeped into the ground and into adjacent wells. West Side was a storage spot for dry-cleaning chemicals.

The plan would cost $4.4 million, which would be split between the city and the state, Meicht said.

The remedy calls for the installation of a high-capacity groundwater extraction well and treatment system on the site, Meicht said. The well would pump and treat 1 million gallons of water a day by pulling it from the ground, cleaning it of contaminants, like perchloroethylene or PERC and Methyl tert-butyl ether or MTBE, and redepositing the water into the ground, she said.

To clean the entire site would take between two years and a decade, she said, but this plan would also prevent the contaminants from spreading to other areas.

“We’re containing and treating the problem,” Meicht said. “This clean-up remedy will help prevent migration of contaminants from West Side site.”

The site was owned by West Side until 1992, and is now the property of the city Department of Environmental Protection.

Manuel Caughman, president of the Brinkerhoff Action Association, is glad the DEC has developed a plan, and agrees with the plans.

“I think it’s the best approach they could take without disrupting the community even further,” Caughman said.

There is no plan to reintroduce this water to the city’s water supply yet, but Meicht said if it does become a possibility, the water would be tested by the Department of Health before being included for human consumption.

“Public water is tested regularly and has to meet strict regulations,” she said. “No water would be used for drinking water unless it passed all the tests.”

Before the cleanup can begin, however, funds must be allocated for the project at the state and city levels, Meicht said.

The state money is supposed to come from the Superfund program, a provision of the state budget that is expected to be bankrupt as of Sunday, Meicht said. Before the clean-up project can begin, the fund will need to be refinanced to get the money flowing, she said.

“We don’t have the funds to move forward with the remedy of this site,” Meicht said.

The $4.4 million pricetag also includes $1.3 million for the construction of the new equipment, Meicht said. The state DEC is still negotiating with the city Department of Environmental Preservation, which owns the property, on how the bill will be divided, she said.

Should the funding be released, the design phase of the project could begin in the fall, with construction starting early next summer, Meicht said.

“The only thing they’re waiting on is money from the governor from the Superfund,” said Manuel Caughman, president of the Brinkerhoff Action Association. “He’s just dragging his feet on this.”

Caughman, whose group has been actively pursuing the cleanup of the site, said the community has been waiting for a remedial solution since the contamination was discovered in 1996.

“It’s paramount that this site gets cleaned,” he said. “I just want them to expedite it as soon as possible.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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