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State tests Jamaica area for ground contaminants

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Concerns that chemical contamination from the old West Side Corporation site in Jamaica could spread to the groundwater and soil beneath a residential construction site has prompted the state to test for contaminants.

The construction is taking place on 180th Street between 106th Road and 107th Avenue to the northwest of the West Side Corporation site, and state legislators are worried chemicals from the now-closed factory site, including gasoline additives and dry cleaning chemicals, will contaminate the ground beneath the new houses being built, said state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans).

“We asked the DEC to do this test to make sure that if anyone moves into those homes there that there’s no toxic waste underneath their homes,” said Manuel Caughman, president of the Brinkerhoff Action Association, a Jamaica-based civic group.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation was expected to take soil and water samples from the residential construction site Wednesday, said Peter Constantakes, a spokesman for the agency.

The samples will be used by the DEC to test for the chemical contaminants that had previously been found at the West Side Site, such as methyl tert-butyl ether, known as MTBE, a gasoline additive, and perchloroethylene, known as PERC, a dry-cleaning chemical, Scarborough said.

The DEC first thought the tests unnecessary, based on the information it gathered on the toxic plume in the ground underneath the West Side Site, Scarborough said. But pressure from Scarborough, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and community leaders changed that, Scarborough said.

“Data from our previous investigations indicate that the construction site is outside the area of soil and groundwater contamination form the West Side site,” Michael O’Toole, Jr., director of the Division of Environmental Remediation for the DEC, wrote in a letter to Scarborough. “To confirm that the construction site remains outside the area of contamination, we will obtain additional samples of soil, soil vapors, and groundwater.”

The construction site that will be tested is where 10 to 15 two-family homes are being built, Scarborough said. He and others are concerned that the proximity of the homes to the West Side Corp. site could cause problems for the future residents, he said.

“It’s right next door, within a stone’s throw away,” he said of the site. “You are going to have people buying those homes. They might not even know that they’re moving onto a possibly contaminated site.”

Although the community is hoping to have the results back in about 10 days after the tests, they may have to wait four to six weeks, Constantakes said.

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

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