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Remedy Proposed for Contaminated LIRR Site

Public invited to provide comments from now until December 21

Recently, a solution was proposed to deal with contamination at a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) site in Port Washington, which is currently under review by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The public is invited to comment on this proposed remedy from now until December 21.

According to a fact sheet and map provided by the Division of Environmental Remediation within the NYSDEC, the site is located at South Bayles and Davis Avenue, adjacent to the east side of the railroad tracks and approximately 1,000 feet south of the train station. The NYSDEC explained that a substation is on this site, and it is a one-story brick structure that is about 2,400 square feet. In addition, a 5,800 square foot transformer yard is next to this building.

Providing more of a background on the substation and transformer yard, the NYSDEC stated that the LIRR built, owned, and operated substations throughout Long Island starting in the early 1930s, and the substations housed mercury rectifiers, which were devices used to supply power to LIRR locomotives and electric passenger car fleets. They further explained that during the 1980s, the mercury rectifiers were removed from the substations and replaced with non-mercury containing solid state equipment, but past work practices employed during the operation and maintenance of the mercury rectifiers have contaminated the site. Additionally, the NYSDEC said that maintenance of the transformers has caused polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) oils to contaminate the area immediately adjacent to the transformers. An investigation identified contamination on the site, and it was determined that contamination is limited to the on-site soils, and groundwater and off-site soils were not contaminated.

The NYSDEC said that after completing a thorough investigation under New York’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), LIRR developed a solution to address the contamination at this site. The proposed solution is described in a cleanup plan called a “Remedial Action Work Plan.” It includes excavating contaminated soils and backfilling the excavated soils with clean fill, and the excavation will remove the source of contamination from the site and reduce or eliminate exposure to receptors. In addition, a restriction would be placed on the site limiting its use for industrial purposes only, and the old substation will be demolished and a new substation will be constructed to power the LIRR trains.

According to the NYSDEC, the process began with LIRR (the volunteer) submitting an application to participate in the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP). The NYSDEC states that the VCP was established in New York to address the environmental, legal, and financial barriers that often hinder the redevelopment and reuse of contaminated properties. (For more information about the VCP, visit www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8442.html). The Voluntary Cleanup Agreement signed by NYSDEC and the LIRR went into effect in November 2004. The Investigation Work Plan was finalized in June 2005. The investigation was conducted from September 2005 until March 2010. The Investigation Report was approved by the NYSDEC in May 2010.

The NYSDEC is currently accepting public comments on this proposed remedy for a period of 30 days: November 21 to December 21. Comments can be submitted to Mr. Nathan Putnam, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Remediation, 625 Broadway, 11th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-7015. Comments can also be emailed to Mr. Putnam at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

All of the public comments will be considered by the NYSDEC and the plan will be revised as necessary. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) must agree with the proposed remedy for it to be approved, and after approval, the proposed remedy becomes the selected remedy. The NYSDEC said that if revisions are needed based on public comments, a revised Remedial Action Work Plan outlining the selected remedy would be made available to the public. Once approved, the NYSDEC estimates that activities to clean up the site will begin in winter 2012, and the NYSDEC will keep the public informed during the cleanup of the site.

All of the project documents, which includes the November 2011 Proposed Decision Document, the May 2011 Remedial Action Work Plan, the March 2010 Investigation Report, and the June 2005 Investigation Work Plan, are available at the Port Washington Public Library and the NYSDEC Region 1 Headquarters, located at 50 Circle Road in Stony Brook. Any site-related health questions should be directed to Renata Ockerby, New York State Department of Health, at (518) 402-7880.