Thursday, May 13, 2010

State DEC has known about the high PCB contamination levels at the Red Hook Ball Fields since "at least May 2001."

Image from Wall Street Journal

Put this one in the "company pollutes and puts people's health at risk while authorities say nothing" category.

The local papers have been covering the revelation that Red Hook Ball Fields, where the Latin Food vendors and soccer matches take place on the weekends, is contaminated with PCBs that have been found in the soil at levels over 100 times more than is deemed safe. The PCBs are a result of chemical spills from a property, previously occupied by the now bankrupt Chemtura plastic additive company, that abuts the Red Hook Ball Fields. The latest revelation, via this Wall Street Journal article (here), is that the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) first found hazardous-waste violations at the site during the 1990s and has known about the dangerous levels of cancer causing PCBs since "at least May 2001", and, despite the fact it has been taking legal action to try to force Chemtura to clean up the contamination, the DEC has not kept the City, the Parks Department, nor the people using the field informed.

What action is the City now taking? This from the WSJ article -

The city, newly aware of the fight, said Wednesday that the Parks Department would measure pollutants in the park. The 58.5-acre space is home to scores of youth soccer tournaments, adult softball leagues, playgrounds and the popular Latin American food vendors, who operate during soccer games. The Health Department said it plans to analyze soil samples from the area closest to the shuttered plant.

"We will rely on the Health Department's evaluation of test results to determine whether further action is warranted," said Parks Department spokeswoman Vickie Karp.

What are the DEC saying about their lack of communication?

Yancey Roy, a DEC spokesman, said, "The agency followed the necessary outreach protocols, but in retrospect we could have done more." (my emphasis)

Ya think so, Mr. Roy?

In the Wall Street Journal article, John McGettrick, co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association is quoted -

"It's frustrating," he said. "Why didn't they (the DEC) say anything? If this was property adjacent to Central Park, would people be dealing with this in such a cavalier fashion?"

In Gary Buiso's Brookyn Courier article, (here), Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman is quoted -

“If the state is not sharing information with their city counterparts, then it seems they are not acting in the best interests of the public,” he said.

Hopefully, despite the DECs poor communication, the testing will take place, the uncertainty will be soon cleared up (or chemicals cleaned up), and the "Soccer Tacos" will be able to continue their raging weekend trade without fear of what is in the the ground under their feet and those of their customers.

Anyone wanting a guaranteed non-toxic location to eat their tacos and papusas should head to the new "Red Hook Mercado" on Van Brunt Street, opening this Saturday, where some of the Ball Field vendors will be dishing up their delicious food in a more traditional (and PCB free) environment.


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