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Hunters Point residents blast Queens West over oil stench

"As far as long-term health effects we don't expect to see them," Marjorie Scilke-Friedman, of the state Department of Health, said in the cafeteria of the Citigroup building in Court Square. She drew fire after conceding that trace amounts of benzene and other chemicals in the air "make you feel bad. They make you feel icky" "I don't believe there's such a thing as a little sick," Borough President Helen Marshall said. "The air in Queens - and I'm not proud to say this - the air in Queens is the worst in the city. I think you need to take a little more serious approach to this."The 74-acre Queens West site, which has been pegged for a $2.3 billion makeover, was home to at least two turn-of-the-century oil refineries. Contractors have been wrangling with the area's toxic legacy since launching a cleanup about nine months ago on the 21-acre Pepsi site. An overpowering oil stench brought work to a halt late last summer while crews stepped up odor controls. The stench returned two weeks ago. "What you're doing now is not fair. It's not fair to anyone that lives there," said Gregory T. Switzer, a resident. "I'm going to hold you all responsible if there is ever a problem with any of my children because of this.""People should not have to wake up feeling nauseous in the morning and it needs to stop," added Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley. The first stage of the cleanup should wrap up in less than two weeks, said Dan Walsh, project manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.Before the next phase starts in the fall, one contractor agreed to look into better odor controls, including using barges to remove contaminated soil instead of trucks. The DEC has said that one source of the stench is uncovered piles of contaminated dirt. TRC Companies, one of the contractors cleaning the site, has removed about 50,000 tons of soil. "There may be an opportunity to use a barge instead of trucks," said Ed Malley, vice president of TRC. "It's something we will seriously consider for the next stage of work But Walsh said barges have one drawback: They require large stockpiles of dirt. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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