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Jul 8, 2009 2:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

DEC changes its plans for cleaning up Speonk plume

Jul 8, 2009 2:06 PM

New York State environmental protection officials have changed their plans to clean up a half-mile-long plume of contaminated groundwater, the source of which was traced back to lumber yard in Speonk more than a decade ago, after discovering more pollution near the property.

During their investigation over the past two years, Department of Environmental Conservation officials said they have uncovered three times more soil that had been contaminated with arsenic and chromium than originally suspected. Some of the contaminated soil is on the 5-acre property owned by the BB&S Creosote Lumber Company Inc., and located on the eastern side of Speonk-Riverhead Road, while the rest is near a drainage ditch located across the street from the lumber yard, according to state officials.

The 5-acre lot is now being leased by the Best Building and Supply Lumber Corp., a separate business that recently filed for bankruptcy, according to court documents. That current tenant will not be held responsible for the contamination, according to state officials.

The recent discovery of more polluted soil prompted DEC officials to change their cleanup strategy. Now, instead of digging up an estimated 5,300 cubic yards of contaminated soil and treating and cleaning it on site, the state plans to excavate some 18,400 cubic yards of contaminated dirt and dumping it off site, explained David Chiusano, the project manager. The state has not yet decided where it will eventually dump the soil, though DEC spokesman Bill Fonda said it will most likely be deposited outside of New York State.

At the same time, decreasing levels of chromium and arsenic found in groundwater near the lumber yard property have also prompted the DEC to alter its remediation methods. The DEC no longer intends on treating contaminated groundwater on-site; instead, it will offer to hook up eight nearby homes and a few businesses to a water main that was installed by the Suffolk County Water Authority in 2002, Mr. Chiusano said. That work is expected to cost approximately $160,000.

Mr. Chiusano said that five of the eight homeowners have already agreed to abandon their private wells and accept county water. The private wells feeding the eight homes had been tested and are not contaminated with arsenic or chromium, according to state officials. Mr. Chiusano emphasized that providing public water was being done as a precaution.

The chemicals in the plume are slowly moving in south and toward Montauk Highway. Mr. Chiusano added that the DEC plans on installing monitoring wells along Montauk Highway to keep closer tabs on the plume.

Both the soil excavation work and public water hookups are set to begin in the late fall and will take between six and 12 months to complete, Mr. Chiusano said.

To complete the work, New York State will have to pay about $9 million to finance the cleanup, which is about $3 million less than originally projected, Mr. Fonda said. Because the plume and contaminated soil are now a Superfund site, the property owner, BB&S Creosote Lumber Company, will eventually have to reimburse the state for the work, he said.

The owners of the BB&S Creosote Lumber Company could not be reached for comment.

A public meeting on the recent changes made to the remediation plans will be held on Tuesday, July 14, at 7 p.m., at Westhampton Beach Village Hall on Mill Road. The DEC will also accept written comments until Thursday, July 30.

The BB&S Creosote Lumber Company property is currently occupied by Best Building and Supply Lumber Corp. and being operated as a wholesale lumber distribution yard. The business filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, according to documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York.

“We’re going out of business, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the DEC,” said a man who picked up the phone at Best Building and Supply and declined to give his name. “This has more to do with the economy and the banking situation.”

Once the cleanup work begins this fall, the DEC will have the New York State Attorney General’s Office seek restitution from BB&S Creosote Lumber Company Inc., Mr. Chiusano said. He did not know how much the property owners would have to pay back the state, or how long they would have to do it.

“Negotiations between attorneys happen and sometimes they settle on a price, sometimes they don’t,” Mr. Chiusano said. “Usually, it’s a long period of time before it’s resolved.”

First discovered in the mid-1980s, the plume originates at the lumber yard and extends south and west along Speonk-Riverhead Road to Old Country Road, Mr. Chiusano said. The plume is several hundred feet wide and runs about 130 feet deep, he said.

Chromium and arsenic were used as wood preservatives by BB&S Creosote Lumber Company, according to the DEC. Another contaminant, zinc-oxide, was used to make wood flame-retardent. The BB&S Creosote Lumber Company stopped chemically treating wood in 1996, according to the DEC.

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The profit motive and the corporate officers spewing cancer, then running away, sounds like a plan!
By kelbas (30), Southampton on Jul 8, 09 9:55 PM