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West Side sued for fouling water

Cuomo and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander B. Grannis filed the suit against West Side and its operation partners, Dow Chemical Corp., Ethyl Corp. and PPG Industries, last Thursday which seeks $30 million in damages for polluting the area near its Jamaica plant. The 4.5-acre site, located at 107-10 180th St., was used for storage and distribution of chemicals for dry cleaning such as perchloroethylene, or PCE, for 21 years. The chemicals contaminated the ground and water supply with toxic materials."Hazardous substances...have threatened public health and the environment," the suit says.The suit, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, is asking the companies to reimburse the state for past and future costs in assessing the damage done to the nearby area and cleaning it up. The suit contends the companies were negligent in handling nearly 50,000 gallons of chemicals contained in above-ground storage tanks located in the southeast portion of the site and had "contemporaneous knowledge" of constant spills and leakage during shipment transfers.Ethyl Corporation, Dow and PPG supplied the dry cleaning chemicals for the plant, which opened in 1969, and arranged for distribution and repackaging of the containers, according to the suit. The chemicals would spill and leak during the transfer procedures from railroad tanker cars and trucks to the storage tanks.West Side officials could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Dow said the company had not yet been formally served and would evaluate the complaint further in the future, in an e-mailed statement.Although West Side still owns the site, it stopped operations in the facility in 1990 and currently leases the building to Atlantic Express Bus Company.In 1996 the city's Department of Environmental Protection found the chemicals had polluted drinking water wells in southeast Queens that were formerly run by the Jamaica Water company. Between the 1887 and 1996 water from the wells was combined with reservoir water from upstate and delivered to Jamaica homes by Jamaica Water Supply, according to the DEP. After purchasing the wells in 1996, the DEP was considering using them as an additional water supply source but capped them until they could be decontaminated for public use. Further investigation by the DEC found that PCE from the plant had polluted the soil and groundwater as far as a quarter of a mile away. After nearly a decade of complaints by southeast Queens leaders and residents and numerous studies issued by several government and independent environmental groups, the DEC began decontaminating the soil in 2004.Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who has worked with residents and environmental agencies in the past over the pollution issue at West Side , praised the state for challenging the corporation and its partners."My office has fought long and hard to clean up the contamination, and ensure that any company that played a part pays the price for endangering our community," he said in a statement.The first two stages of the cleanup, which involved studying the site and main removal of PCE are complete, according to Comrie. A third stage that will work to ensure the pollution does not spread further is pending."There is more money to be spent on the project. I'm confident that the site will be thoroughly cleaned," he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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