(Ed.'s note: Following is a background history of the Salem School and the landfill compiled by the BOE's Facilities Committee and presented by its chairperson, school board member Nancy Cowles, at the work session on the resuse of the facility.)
1865 - Sand and gravel mining operations begin in area along East Shore Road near Hempstead Harbor. Much mining activity through the early-mid 1900s. As the mining was phased out the site began being used as a construction and demolition debris landfill.
1951 - Salem School constructed on former farmlands. Additions to the building were made in 1957-58.
1973 - The TNH purchased some of the former mining site for a municipal landfill.
1974 - Landfilling began in four acres of the area designated L-4. Approximately 260,000 tons of waste material per year was dumped there. This consisted of residential, commercial, industrial, construction and demolition debris, incinerator residue. Oil and gasoline saturated soil and asbestos were allowed to be disposed of with permits. Residents stated drummed liquid waste was also disposed there.
1975 - Although a liner had been installed before the landfilling began, leachate started overflowing the liner and there were many complaints about odors in the surrounding area including at the Salem School.
1976 - A leachate treatment system was installed.
1979 - The landfill area was increased to 29 acres. During the winters of 1979-91, small furnace explosions occurred in a few homes located about 100-500 feet from the landfill.
1981 - The Nassau County Dept. fo Health investigated the situation and found methane exceeding explosive levels in several homes. In September 1981 the Board of Education had a study conducted to investigate the impact of the North Hemsptead landfill on the Salem school. Findings indicated that there was not "currently a combustible gas problem in the school building." However, it was recommended that a methane alarm system be installed in the Salem school "to provide continuous monitoring coverage." The monitor was installed and is still functioning in the school. To this date its alarm has never sounded.
1982 - The USEPA placed the landfill on its National Priorities List because of contamination in the area and began monitoring the site. A "...comprehensive evaluation of the Port Washington landfill conducted during 1982 by the cooperative efforts of the USEPA, Nassau County Health Department and the TNH failed to provide any evidence to indicate that the adjacent community was being impacted to an extent that a condition of public health concern existed."
1983 - Disposal operations ceased in the L-4 landfill, but began in a portion of the L-5 landfill area. A Community Action Committee to the TNH on solid waste was formed. The L-4 landfill was declared a Superfund hazardous waste site. The Nassau County DOH performed additional air sampling tests in surrounding residences and the Salem school. Air samples were also taken at the Main Street school and Schreiber for comparative purposes. "The test results provided no indication that landfill gases were infiltrating into the ambient atmosphere at the Salem school and with no vinyl chloride being found, provided no evidence that a condition of public health concern existed."
1985 - The Salem school was closed in June 1985 because of declining enrollment.
1988 - Requests for proposals for using the Salem school were issued. Although there were several inquiries the BOE did not act upon them as "it felt that possible future space needs must be assessed...and it concentrated instead on the disposition of the Main Street school." During the early 1990s some district maintenance shops were moved to Salem. Other efforts to use Salem continued to be submitted; however, an acknowledged need for extensive renovation became a deterrent to prospective users.
1989 - A plan for remediating the inactive hazardous waste site was developed. The TNH and the USEPA "...negotiated a Consent Degree for the remedial design and signed it in September 1991. It is expected that the remediation will be completed in 1998.
1991 - The school district had made several requests that the strong odors emanating from the landfill be investigated. The L-5 landfill was closed by order of the Nassau County Board of Health in January 1992.
1993 - A task force was established to make recommendations for the future use or disposition of Salem. At the conclusion of their study the committee made two recommendations. One, a "...3 year moratorium on any changes to the present status of the property," and two, suggested the possibility of leasing the property be explored."
1998 - Since 1993 only some additional maintenance shops and a few administrative offices have moved into Salem. The TNH continues to work on completing the remedial plan for the landfill.