Today’s news:

Toxic gunk stirs dredging fears

Be afraid of the black mayonnaise. That’s the message dozens of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach residents received Thursday during an eye opening forum about the toxic gunk lying just under the floor of Gravesend Bay – a substance that may be unearthed when the Department of Sanitation (DOS) begins dredging for their new waste transfer facility. Opponents to the plan, led by Assemblyman William Colton, are afraid that the toxins kicked up by the dredging will not only be detrimental to area residents, but to the entire Brooklyn shoreline. “This isn’t a ‘not in our back yard’ situation,” Colton told the guests attending the standing room only meeting at the Shore Parkway Jewish Center, 8825 26th Avenue. “The environmental concerns we have are real and we have to make our case to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).” The proposed waste transfer station, which already has the approval of the city council, is slated to stand on the DOS incinerator torn down in 2004. The proposed station is part of the DOS Solid Waste Management Plan where community boards will bring their refuse to area locations to be picked up and carted away. The Gravesend Bay site would be a transfer hub for Community Board 11 in Besonhurst, Community Board 13 in Coney Island and Community Board 15 in Sheepshead Bay, according to the plan. Armed with a scientific study that he helped finance, Colton told meeting attendees that he hopes to prove to the state DEC that shaking up the toxins the incinerator left on the bottom of the bay would create a dangerous cocktail that would hurt southern Brooklyn’s ecosystem. The report, conducted by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, warns that the bay’s bounty of marine wildlife could be endangered if the sediment is dredged. Colton said sediment samples were taken from nine sites along the bay. The results reinforced a 2003 U.S. Geological Survey report that showed increased levels of mercury and PCBs, a hazardous organic compound. Surface samples taken from the bay floor resembled “black mayonnaise” said Mark Treyger, a longtime opponent of the plan. “We’re afraid that if anyone digs deeper, they are going to dig up everything that Mother Nature tried to cure,” he said. “Our study shows that there is an increased presence of toxins at the bottom of Gravesend Bay,” said Colton. “If they dredge, those toxins will be suspended in the water and the waves will carry it out to a wider area.” “If they dredge, it won’t be safe to fish anywhere in southern Brooklyn,” he predicted. DOS officials said that they have yet to evaluate the report and that their “plan for the marine transfer station is a good one,” according to a DOS spokesperson, adding, “We would assure that our building would meet all environmental regulations.” But the state DEC thinks otherwise, Colton alleges. While the city states that they already have all of the approval they need, Colton said that the state DEC has already handed the Department of Sanitation’s proposal for the marine transfer station back to them with questions. Colton believes that the report could bolster the state’s concerns. “Once they look at the study, the DEC will probably reject the plan just on the merits,” Colton said. If his study, as well as the hundreds of letters and petitions filed about the problem doesn’t sway the state DEC, the Assemblyman said that he might have to take the case to court. While Colton claims that he doesn’t have a problem with the waste transfer station itself, his bucolic Gravesend Bay shouldn’t be used as a garbage collection point. “Millions of dollars have been spent to turn the area around Gravesend Bay into a recreational and residential area,” he said, adding that a waste transfer station would be more suited for a manufacturing zone. “This is the wrong place for a transfer site.” —Gary Buiso contributed to this story

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