|Photo by Christopher Barca/Queens Chronicle|
A $22 million sewer main project in Middle Village that was nearing completion suddenly stalled in December, and no one in the community knew exactly why.
There was some talk among area leaders that workers were transferred to another job site or that they had various problems digging into the ground.
But on Tuesday, Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) said the real reason for the project’s halting was much scarier.
“The Department of Design and Construction sent four representatives to my office on Friday and they told me the project stopped because of contaminants in the soil,” Holden said. “I asked one gentleman what were the contaminents in the soil.
“He said high levels of lead.”
As if that wasn’t a big enough issue, the lawmaker said that problematic soil that had been excavated during the Penelope Avenue sewer work is sitting in a yard leased by CAC Industries — the project contractor — across the street from PS/IS 128, a K-8 school in Middle Village.
The massive mounds of dirt had been sitting uncovered at the site, possibly for months, as a tarp wasn’t placed over them until this week.
And at both a press conference and Community Education Council District 24’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, Holden said the person who spoke about the high lead levels — a senior DDC project manager based in the immediate area — was contradicted by his colleagues over how dangerous the soil was and if it was covered.
The lawmaker added he visited the site last Friday and noticed the massive mound of soil was uncovered. But on Monday, he claimed, DDC Acting Commissioner Ana Barrio falsely told him it had been covered the entire time and that the agency project manager “misspoke” regarding lead levels.