BY JON CRONIN
Soil that was improperly stored across the street from PS/IS 128Q in Middle Village has been determined by a local scientist to be contaminated, but not hazardous.
Dr. James Cervino, an earth scientist, was asked by Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) to examine the soil-test results from the city’s Department of Design and Construction’s (DDC) 74th Street sewer project that was closed in December due to hazardous lead levels.
At that time, the project’s contractor, CAC Industries Inc., attempted to dispose of a large amount of soil from the site and was refused by an unnamed local dump. That soil was then deposited improperly in an equipment staging area across from PS/IS 128.
On April 23, concerned parents spoke with the DDC and the city’s Department of Health and Hygiene to get answers on the lead levels in the soil. Both agencies stated that the lead levels in the pile of soil were not at hazardous levels, but parents demanded test results. The DDC said it would release the results the next day, but did not. Holden obtained the results through the mayor’s office and had Cervino interpret them.
Cervino said that the readings from the site on 74th Street have “extremely high levels of lead.” However, he categorized the soil at the staging site as contaminated, but not hazardous.
The results obtained by Holden’s office did not specify where each sample was taken, but the lead levels ranged from 600 parts to 2,400 parts per million. DOH External Affairs Commissioner Sam Miller said at the meeting that workers at projects with lead levels above 1,000 parts per million are required to wear head-to-toe Tyvek suits.
Holden said that he believed the city would have to add $8 million to $10 million to the project’s bottom line to safely deal with the high contamination. The 74th Street project is now sealed and covered with asphalt. Ian Michaels, a DDC spokesman, said that the site is not dangerous.
Cervino, who makes assessments pro bono for civic associations, said he recommends that the DDC drill into the ground in the area and test the groundwater, despite the fact that the city does not drink from it. He noted that if upstate reservoirs became undrinkable, the city’s groundwater should be a clean option. He added that if the groundwater is contaminated, it could spill out into intertidal wetlands and into the bay.
“Much of the soil in that area is classified as ‘historic fill,’ which is a term for soil that contains ash and other historic debris often associated with old incineration techniques,” Michaels said.
Holden is worried about the effect on students and teachers at the school who might have breathed in particles from the nearby soil.
“I’m not taking anyone’s word that this is fine. I’ll be calling in all of our resources,” Holden said.