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Bay Terrace co-op to pay $600K for cleanup of ‘01 heating oil spill

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Bay Terrace Cooperative Section 10 Inc., a 240-unit apartment complex located at 18-70 211th St., was charged with releasing 600 gallons of No. 6 home-heating oil into the bay, when a co-op building's oil line burst and overflowed the boiler room's sump pump, U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said.The boiler room's pipes then channeled the oil into a storm sewer line that ended a mile away at Little Neck Bay on March 27, 2001. A U.S. Coast Guard survey the next day revealed that a mile of shoreline on the lower end of the bay had been affected by the thick black substance, Mauskopf said.The subsequent 40-day cleanup cost about $650,000, and under the federal Oil Pollution Act the Bay Terrace Cooperative is liable for the costs after tests showed a match between the complex's oil samples and the substance found in the bay, according to Mauskopf.Charlotte Biblow, a lawyer for the co-op, said the settlement was reached before the government had filed a complaint and the actual lawsuit had been a legal formality."The settlement reduced the costs to $600,000," Biblow said, adding that when the spill occurred, the building's management worked with the Coast Guard on corrective measures to ensure prevention of future leaks.Calls to the co-op's central office were not answered Tuesday night.The city Parks Department, which oversaw the cleanup with the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said in 2001 that the oil had destroyed hundreds of mussels, mallards, ospreys and swans when the spill spread to Udall's Cove, a protected wetland preserve on the east side of Little Neck Bay. By 2002, however, local environmentalists said the cove had escaped major damage.The settlement also includes reimbursement of claims paid from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a U.S. Treasury fund to finance cleanups related to oil spills, to people whose property was damaged by the heating oil spill. It was unknown how many people had filed for property reimbursements or for what amount.Biblow said the co-op is now preparing a lawsuit with Kew Gardens lawyer Gary Darche against certain people believed to be primarily responsible, but she did not know the details of the suit. Calls to Darche were not returned by press time.She also said she did not know how the co-op would pay the $600,000 settlement fee. "That's between them, the managing agency, and the shareholders," Biblow said. David Baron Metro Management of Long Island City was the managing agency, Biblow said."Maintaining the integrity of our waters is an essential goal of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund," Mauskopf said in a release. "By recovering the funds expended by the Trust Fund, we ensure that resources will continue to be available to keep the waters of our communities free of oil pollution."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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