Written by Jaime L. Tomeo Friday, 04 September 2009 00:00
Over 10 years, three superintendents and countless public meetings later, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has selected the final remedy for the lead contamination issue in the basement of Island Trees High School.
Working cooperatively with the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Nassau County Department of Health (NCDH), a decision was made after “careful consideration” states the August Remedial Alternative Report (RAR) from the DEC.
The following is a summary of the chosen remedy - Capping:
• A concrete cap will be installed to cover the soil in the entire main pipe tunnel, the branch tunnel, and portions of the access rooms.
• After capping the selected areas in the access rooms with concrete, a geotextile fabric will be placed over all of the access spaces as a dust mitigation measure for any possible future entry to these areas.
• An Institutional Control in the form of a Declaration of Covenants and Restriction will be placed on the high school property to notify any future owners of that property that lead-impacted soils exist under the encapsulated areas.
• Annual inspection and certification of the capping system will be required.
• The School District will restrict access to pipe tunnel area.
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 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.
H2M Senior Project Manager Paul Lageraaen said this project will carry an estimated capital cost of $284,000. This does not include yearly inspections or future remediation.
DEC 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.
“Prior to implementing the selected remedy, a Remedial Work Plan (RWP), which will include a Health and Safety Plan (HASP) for site workers and a Community Air Monitoring Plan (CAMP) to monitor for potential dust migrations to nearby areas, will be developed,” the RAR states.
It is expected that remedial work will be undertaken by the Island Trees School District during the summer of 2010.
Island Trees Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Murphy said that the district’s goal “is to follow the direction given by the DEC in regards to this environmental concern.”
In the upcoming months, the Island Trees School Board will be addressing how to finance this project, however Dr. Murphy said it is now in the hands of him and Assistant Superintendent for Business Susan Hlavenka – both new to the district - to “come up with some options for the board to look at.”
Dr. Murphy said his hope is to find the money somewhere in the budget or obtain a government grant.
“That would be a win for the community,” he added.
Two other remedial alternatives included not taking any further action and excavation.
A June 2009 fact sheet provided by the DEC included several primary advantages of capping the area of concern over excavating including the potential for dust migration with excavation, capping being more cost-effective and a shorter timeframe for implementation.
“This [excavation] would then necessitate some secondary control for this remedial alternative, such as the use of a cap over portions of the excavated areas that were not fully remediated. Subsequent capping may not be able to be completed within the 2010 summer recess, further delaying this to 2011,” the RAR states.
While no written comments were received by DEC Project Manager Katy Murphy during the 45-day public comment period between June 22 and Aug. 6, 11 people provided comments directly on the proposed remedial alternatives in the RAR, as an administrative law judge was present at both public informational sessions on July 9.
According to the RAR, seven of the 11 people who publicly commented supported Remedial Alternative III – Excavation. Two people supported Remedial Alternative II – Capping. Two other people offered no clear preference for any of the remedies and no one supported Remedial Alternative 1 – No Action.
Island Trees resident Michael Alavanja said, “I would like the excavation option explored to the extreme, because I feel that we have been dragged through this long enough, and it is best to get everything out of there…”
Anthony Camporeale agreed, stating, “I think that encapsulating the sand, the contaminants, the lead, there will always be an issue. It needs to be removed totally.”
Geoffrey Eisenbarth commented that, “the school board and the DEC should implement removal of the soil and then encapsulate with concrete with an epoxy sealant above that.”
ITHS student Michelle Savino said she is “very concerned for my own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of my peers and my teachers. I would like to see the problem taken care of properly so that we don’t have to worry about it in the future.”
ITHS parent Sandra D’Arcangelo added, “nothing short of full removal will make us parents feel safe.”
Ilene Shapiro commented that she agrees “with the fact that they should cap it over with concrete and finish the job once and for all.”
Shapiro continued, stating she “feels safe” sending her son to ITHS.
“His blood has been tested,” she added. “He is fine. He wrestles, so he is in the basement a lot and he is fine. So I have no concerns for his health.”
Her son, Craig Shapiro, also commented on record stating he “feels safe.”
Bill Yearsley, whose son, wife and himself have graduated from ITHS, commented that he thinks “the district remediation plan that they have, that they are proposing is excellent.”
“It will actually diminish the amount of lead that will be exposed to the public and to the people who are working on the project,” he said. “It will save the district money.”
In the RAR, the DEC, in consultant with the DOH and NCDH, responded to specific comments received during the comment period.
Addressing several inquiries as to why the lead contamination wasn’t completely addressed with the August 2006 removal of 76 tons of soil, the RAR states, “The primary reason why capping is acceptable to the NYSDEC today is that the school district has completed a major soil removal already that has removed the majority of the source material. That early removal satisfied the NYSDEC general guidance to address source area material in the remedy. The NYSDEC’s experience in that August 2006 excavation has highlighted some of the difficulties inherent in achieving a complete remediation by excavation in this specific case. That is one of the reasons why the NYSDEC has selected the capping alternative for this site.”
While the soil removal done in August 2006 was completed in accordance with the work plan under the oversight of the DEC, in cooperation with the DOH and NCDH, “not all impacted soils had been removed.”
In response to comments that the capping alternative would leave contaminated soils that would have to be addressed by future generations, the RAR states, “The NYSDEC believes any negative aspect of the capping alternative is far outweighed by other considerations.”
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.