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DEC reveals details of deal to clean up PS 65

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The state Department of Environmental Conservation has revealed details of a deal with Endzone Inc., formerly Ozone Industries Inc., to submit a plan to clean up the toxic plume underneath PS 65 in Ozone Park.

DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes said the agency signed an order Feb. 5 that gives Endzone 60 days to draw up a work plan to examine how to best address the carcinogenic plume of trichloroethylene, or TCE, underneath and adjacent to PS 65.

"The parties recognize that implementation of this order will expedite the cleanup of the site and may avoid prolonged and complicated litigation between the parties and that this order is mutually acceptable, fair, reasonable and in the public interest," the DEC said in the order of consent.

The document binds all parties to the cleanup of the site but does not assign blame to any one party, Constantakes said. It also does not identify whether any chemical has leaked or spilled and endangered schoolchildren or local residents around the area, despite prior state tests to the contrary.

Ozone Industries, which owned the nearby chemical storage site from which the TCE is alleged to have leaked, rented and operated the property from 1987-1988. The site, approximately a city block, is bounded by 99th and 100th streets to the east and west, and by 101st and 103rd avenues to the north and south.

Parents of children attending PS 65 claim their children are getting sick, nauseous and dizzy because of fumes rising up from the toxic plume more than 30 feet below the ground. The state initiated a preliminary site assessment following a summer meeting attended by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens), which includes the monitoring of groundwater and soil samples.

The block site is listed in the Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites in New York State as Class 2, or posing a significant threat to the surrounding environment, according to the DEC Web site.

Under the DEC's consent order, Endzone has been told to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study, which is required when hazardous waste contamination has been confirmed, according to the Web site.

Engine Co. 285 is adjacent to the property and the headquarters for the 106th Police Precinct is close by at 103-51 101st St. The firehouse would comment on the toxic plume, but a police officer said no one at the precinct has gotten ill because of its proximity to the site.

Katie Acton, whose daughter suffered from chronic asthma before receiving a transfer from PS 65 to nearby PS 62 and a founder of Parents at PS 65Q and Neighborhood Against TCE, has been working with Columbia University's Environmental Law Clinic to organize the community.

She said she is worried that the toxic plume's vapors are causing such problems as chronic dizziness and nausea while exposing teachers and long-time residents to higher cancer risks. Acton said her husband used to work for a cancer research firm.

"The people around here are sick, but they won't talk," said Acton, who fears residents are not being vocal because they fear a downturn in local property values. "I don't understand why you keep open a school where kids are getting sick."

So far this year, however, there have been no incidents either with students or teachers at the school. The DEC last summer installed ventilation units and monitoring wells to improve air quality in classrooms and obtain air samples to measure levels of potential toxins.

Acton said she has partnered with other similar parent organizations that are fighting battles with industry to clean up toxic school sites. She said she was happy a deal was made with the DEC but still believes there is a lack of information coming down from the state.

"The people here don't know why everyone's getting sick," she said, standing next to a portion of the ventilation system where she noted a pungent smell coming from the ground. "They should come and tell the people what's going on."

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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