These clips come from a meeting held last Thursday at Our Lady of Hope and hosted by the Juniper Park Civic Association. The topic was soil contamination at the proposed Maspeth high school. Clips and summary by Christina Wilkinson.
Council Member Avella stated that he was "flabbergasted" that the SCA contractor's representative would "guarantee" that the contamination would not enter the school building. The rep recanted. He explained that there will be 2 pipes through the building and vapors will be pumped through them to the roof where they will exit. [Off-camera, the SCA's engineer explained that the NYPD/FDNY would only be notified of a leak 2 days after it is detected if it is not repaired before then.]
Council Member Avella pointed out that remediating the soil properly is not any more expensive than the system devised by SCA and wondered what the motivation for leaving the toxins in the ground is. It will cost a million dollars just to install a plastic sheet under the school to act as a vapor barrier and this money would be better spent removing the toxic soil instead. (Someone's relative or a "connected" firm is no doubt getting a contract.)
The SCA rep stated that the "soil is not contaminated" with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) but with semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and asserted that therefore vapors are not an issue. Dr. James Cervino countered by stating that semi-volatile organic compound vapors do filter up through the soil and the ones at this site are a risk as they are 3,000 times the amount of the Northeast Background Levels. He explained that the SCA is instead using NYC Background Levels which are less stringent. The toxins present are known to cause cancer and kidney failure. In a laboratory setting, Cervino has seen them cause DNA mutation in cells in concentrations much lower than what is present at the school site. Cervino mentioned that the SCA has enforced the stricter standards in more affluent areas, but does not do so in middle class and poorer neighborhoods. [Off-camera he also mentioned that sites that were found to have less contamination than this were cleaned by SCA contractors according to the stricter standards.]
Dr. Cervino stated that discharge from the proposed venting system will not likely get the surrounding community sick but it is not the right thing to do because there will not be an adequate monitoring system in place. He also reiterated that schools in less affluent areas typically aren't cleaned up properly.
Dr. Cervino says that "never in a million years" would he send his children to this school given the levels of contamination that will not be appropriately remediated. [Off-camera he also stated that there is an offer on the table of certified clean fill from an anonymous donor to offset the cost of the soil replacement which the SCA engineer said the agency would consider.] Dr. Cervino also said he was shocked that Mayor Bloomberg, considering his "green" stance and past work against global warming, would allow children and teachers to be exposed to these contaminants. (Of course, this comes as no shock to Queens Crap readers who know what a hypocrite the mayor is.)
Dr. Cervino invited the SCA and Councilman Avella to a panel discussion at Pace University to further discuss the subject of contamination at school construction sites, said the contamination must be unearthed and replaced with clean soil and talked favorably about the communities of Maspeth & Middle Village.
Of special note is that Council Member Elizabeth Crowley did not attend this meeting but that her Chief-of-Staff, Lydon Sleeper, did and questioned the levels that the SCA was using and their method of cleanup. So the official Crowley position has shifted a bit from "contamination at industrial sites is a given" and is now more like, "Uh oh! This could make me look really bad!"
It will also be interesting to see if the Queens delegation, especially environmentalist James Gennaro, public advocate candidate Eric Gioia, comptroller candidate, new mommy Melinda Katz and financial geniuses Johnny Liu and David Weprin raise hell about any of this. Let's not hold our breath.
Speaking of holding our breath, after the meeting, a sketch of the school uniforms was handed out: