Written by Jaime L. Tomeo Friday, 17 July 2009 00:00
At two public informational sessions on July 9, the Island Trees School District, along with several health and environmental agencies, revealed three proposed remediation alternatives for the remaining lead contaminated soils in the basement of Island Trees High School.
Representatives from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York State Department of Health (DOH), the Nassau County Department of Health (NCDH), the district’s engineering firm, H2M and their environmental engineering firm, Enviroscience Consultants, Inc. were on hand in the Stokes Elementary School gymnasium to answer residents’ questions. Various displays and handouts were also available.
While a DEC Administrative Law Judge was present to receive oral or written comments, all residents approached by the Tribune refused to comment.
This remediation process is part of an Order of Consent the school district entered into with the DEC in April 2006. The area of concern [see photo at right] is approximately 5,230 square feet in the high school’s basement and is comprised of pipe and branch tunnels and access spaces. In the past, the district has implemented soil removal, room and tunnel closures, warning signs, double-locked doors and plastic polyethylene sheeting. After several rounds of testing revealed soil samples in the pipe tunnel were above the cleanup objective of 400 µg/ft² (micrograms per square foot), further action was recommended.
The proposed remedy focuses on encapsulation of the entire pipe and branch tunnels and portions of the access spaces with concrete to cover areas of residual lead contamination.
Elements of the proposed remediation include:
• Encapsulation of the entire pipe and branch tunnels and portions of the access spaces with concrete to cover areas of residual lead contamination.
• Placement of a geotextile fabric over all of the access spaces as a dust mitigation measure for any possible future entry to these areas.
“This geotextile material covering [the access spaces] is to reduce dust generation when people go into these spaces,” Senior Scientist Greg Menegio of Enviroscience Consultants, Inc. explained. However, these areas do not have “elevated portions of lead.”
• A deed restriction and annual inspection of the encapsulated areas. If, at some point in the future, the property is no longer used as a school, the lead-impacted soils would have to be addressed at that time.
H2M Senior Project Manager Paul Lageraaen said this would carry an estimated capital cost of $284,000. This does not include yearly inspections or future remediation.
Future remediation might be necessary if in the assumed 40 years in the future, the “school were no longer a school,” Lageraaen explained. “Annual operating costs would be about $1,000, however the school already has a yearly inspection for the art room as required by the DEC each year.”
The polyethylene sheeting would be removed and properly disposed of, however no soil would be removed with this process. It is expected that remedial work will be undertaken by the Island Trees School District during the summer of 2010.
NYSDOH Public Health Specialist Sharon McLelland said post cleaning and sampling would need to be completed before the school reopened for the 2010/11 school year that September.
When a parent asked if this would be safe after completion, DEC Remediation Unit Supervisor Walter Parish responded yes.
Another remedial alternative would be to take no further action. This is the least costly alternative. The $7,000 calculated cost includes the administration of a new Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions. It would require yearly inspections and maintenance of the polyethylene sheeting. No soil would be removed and no permanent capping would be placed in the area of concern.
The third remedial alternative involves excavation and includes the removal and off-site disposal of soils in the area of concern, including the pipe and branch tunnels and select areas of five access areas.
“This is more of an iterative process,” School District Attorney Lauren Stiles said.
“The thing with excavation is you excavate and then you have to test the area,” Lageraaen further explained. “If something shows up, you have to excavate again.”
The anticipated depth of excavation would be up to six inches by method of vacuum excavation. Soils would be removed by a vactor/guzzler truck and deposited in sealed containers and then properly disposed of. Following the excavation, the pipe and branch tunnels and access spaces would be filled with bankrun sand from a DEC-approved source or pea gravel for regarding purposes. Geotextile fabric would be placed over all of the access spaces as a dust mitigation measure for any possible future entry to these areas. The area would need to be post-remedial tested.
According to a June 2009 fact sheet provided by the DEC, the primary advantages of capping the area of concern over excavating include:
• The potential for dust migration to nearby areas would be much lower than under the excavation alternative.
• The remedy offers a cost-effective method, which has lower capital costs than the excavation alternative.
• There are greater possibilities of budget and schedule overruns with the excavations alternative.
• It would take significantly less time to implement this alternative, thereby minimizing disruption to school activities.
“This has been done in other areas,” McLelland added. “Either project can be done to support minimum health risks.”
Written comments should be submitted to Ms. Katy Murphy, DEC, Division of Solid and Hazardous Materials, 50 Circle Rd., Stony Brook, NY 11790-3409 no later than Aug. 6.
Copies of the Remedial Alternatives Report are available at the Island Trees Public Library, 38 Farmedge Road, Levittown, the Island Trees High School Main Office, 59 Straight La., Levittown and at the DEC’s Stony Brook Office, SUNY at Stony Brook, 50 Circle Rd., Stony Brook, New York. Copies of this document are also available on the Island Trees School District’s website http://www.islandtrees.org/. Information is also available by calling Bill Fonda at 631-444-0350.
According to DEC Spokesperson Bill Fonda, based on the consent order that has been set, the DEC has a 10-day time frame to decide on remediation after the public comment period ends on Aug. 6.
“Comments could have an impact on the remedy chosen,” he added.
Final plans will be sent to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for approval.
According to School District Attorney Lauren Stiles, the NYSED has been aware of everything going on and “is ready for the plans.”
Island Trees Schools Interim Superintendent Jim Parla said the NYSED would assume 58 percent of the cost in building aid. The district would absorb the remaining portion of construction costs.
“We can’t determine how this would be funded until a final decision about the alternative that will be implemented,” he added. “It’s too early to tell whether we would bond this or include it in the budget.”
To notify residents of these informational sessions, the Island Trees School District issued a ConnectEd phone message, made announcements on the district website, had the notice published in the Levittown Tribune and sent a DEC fact sheet to 7,000 households.
According McLelland, “that number is significantly above what is usually sent out.”
Still, less than 20 residents attended the two sessions, which were held from 2 to 5 p.m. and again from 7 to 10 p.m.
Parla, who is leaving the district at the end of July, said that he “hopes the DEC comes to a decision and it becomes a non-issue.”
“The district has done a good job of continuing with the business of educating children,” he added. “The board will get done whatever needs to be done.”