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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York

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Pols push for feds to declare trash plant as Superfund site

September 11, 2015
In The News

The ongoing controversy over the city’s construction of a trash compacting plant on the Bensonhurst waterfront is now a federal issue.

Four local elected officials are requesting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designate the area at 400 Bay 41st St., where the Southwest Brooklyn Marine Waste Transfer Station is currently under construction, as a Superfund site.

The designation would put the waste transfer station site in line for a massive environmental cleanup.

The waste transfer station, part of a Solid Waste Management Plan approved by the City Council back in 2006, will be located on the waterfront on Gravesend Bay. Under the city’s plan, the plant will accept household trash that will be trucked in. The plant will compact the trash and then place the compacted garbage on barges to be shipped to out-of-state landfills.

But the construction should not move ahead, according to U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, Assemblymember William Colton and Councilmember Mark Treyger. The three lawmakers wrote a joint letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in which they charged that the Gravesend Bay, where the waterfront trash plant is being built, contains dangerous toxins.

“Major concerns over the project’s impact on environmental and water quality persist. We therefore respectfully request your office, in compliance with applicable federal law and regulations, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, investigate this matter and consider designating the area a Superfund site,” the three lawmakers wrote.

In their letter, Donovan, Colton and Treyger pointed out that the new trash plant is being constructed at the same site where the city operated a garbage incinerator for many years. The incinerator was closed in the 1990s after several years of complaints from Bensonhurst residents who charged that it was generating air pollution and endangering their health.

“Disturbingly, a 2012 study conducted by the New York City Department of Sanitation identified extremely high levels of metals, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and pesticides at the incinerator site. The study listed the following contaminants at Type C levels, the highest degree possible: Mercury; Chlordane, a pesticide; Mirex, an insecticide which the EPA banned in 1976; and Dioxins,” the elected officials wrote.

“Dredging and other activities necessitated by construction of the Southwest Brooklyn Marine Waste Transfer Station could further disturb the dangerous toxins, threatening the health and safety of the nearby area,” they added.

Councilmember Vincent Gentile has written a letter to Judith Enck, the EPA’s regional director for New York, requesting that the trash plant area be considered for designation as a Superfund site.

Gentile pointed out that unexploded shells have been discovered at the floor of Gravesend Bay from a munitions ship that capsized there in 1954.

“We are at risk for the chemicals left by the incinerator being disseminated throughout New York City waters should the shells explode,” the councilmember wrote.

“Before any further construction occurs, my constituents and I need to be assured that the area is safe from harmful substances. Without your help, I fear that we in Brooklyn could find ourselves in a very compromising position regarding our health and quality of life,” Gentile wrote to Enck.

The law that created Superfunds was enacted by Congress in 1980, according to the EPA’s website, www.epa.gov. The law was enacted in the wake of the discovery of toxic waste sites such as Love Canal in the 1970s.

The law allows the EPA to clean up these sites and gives the agency the authority to order the responsible parties to clean the sites or reimburse the government if the EPA has to step in and clean them.

But the Superfund process is lengthy and complex, according to the EPA. The process involves assessing the sites and placing them on a National Priorities List before a cleanup plan is put in place.