Portrait of Nikola Tesla

Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe
News & Events Archive

As the website renovation progresses, this archive will move into the main site.

Home · News & Events · Newsletter · Facebook

Public Comment and Hearing On Peerless Clean-up Held

by Jane Alcorn, 19 March 2004

With a public comment re-affirming its commitment to cleaning up the Peerless Photo site which it owns in Shoreham, AGFA Corporation took another step in the clean-up process on Wednesday, March 10. At that time the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) held a hearing on the Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) at the Albert Prodell Middle School auditorium. This is one of the steps required by the DEC in preparing for the satisfactory clean-up by the owner of a contaminated property.

The more than two dozen members of the audience heard a brief history of the clean up process and the several possible remedial options which were considered before particular options were selected. Studies to determine how a clean-up will proceed have been ongoing for almost eight years. The main contamination requiring clean-up is contained in a few spots: three recharge basins on the north side of the property, a section of soil on the northeast corner which, extends into the LIPA right-of-way, and in the shaft of what was once a base for a tower built at the site in the early 1900s by its former owner, inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla. The contaminants are mainly silver and cadmium, by-products of the photo-chemical processes that were used at the site when it was an operating plant. In addition to the soil contamination, the potential for water contamination by cadmium was discussed.

Girish Desai, NYSDEC project manager for the site, described the options for each of the contaminated areas, and then focused on the particular solution chosen to be implemented. "The investigatory portion of the process is completed. AGFA has voluntarily agreed to do this investigation. Now we are entering a different phase. First it was listed on the New York Registry of contaminated sites. Then a consent order was issued. We have just finished the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study and this is the Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP). After the Record of Decision there are several other steps: a Consent Order, a Design and Construction phase, and the Operation and Maintenance phase," said Desai.

The proposals include the following remedies: The soil at the recharge basins will be removed and trucked away to a receiving site, most likely in Michigan. The soil on the northeast corner which extends into the LIPA right-of-way will be excavated, and some of it will be used to fill the recharge basins, over which at least two feet of clean soil will be placed. Then, clean fill will be used to replace the removed soil at the LIPA right-of-way. The recharge basins will have environmental restrictions, both institutional and engineered, placed on them, so that the soils will not be disturbed.

At the tower base, an excavation of about 20 feet in diameter will be made to remove contaminated soil to a depth of about 30 feet. From that point to about 100 feet deep, the soil will be treated so that it is stabilized and the contaminants, mostly cadmium, will not leach further downward into the water table. The top of the excavation will be restored with clean fill.

This option was chosen so that the concrete base of the tower can be preserved due to its historic significance. As part of the investigatory and feasibility phase, representatives from the Suffolk County Department of Health and the Suffolk County Water Authority participated. Chris Kerlish of EA Engineering was on hand to address the goals of the investigation and remediation proposal.

"We intend to protect the public health and environment with a minimization of impacts," he said.

The project is estimated to include the removal of 13,200 cubic yards of soil, and the continued monitoring of test wells into the future. The audience had an opportunity to ask questions about the clean-up. One member of the audience was interested in knowing if the buildings which are on the property were clean of contamination.

"There was a cleanup in 1987 of all the buildings. The DEC and Suffolk County Health Department supervised. It included the ejection well and sump. As far as we know, the buildings are safe," said Desai. In response to a questions about the possibility of cadmium being dispursed in the air during excavation, he added that monitors for airborne contaminents will be in place during the future soil cleanup, and will be situated in several locations.

"We'll minimize any impact from excavating to the community," he said. It was estimated by the DEC that AGFA has so far spent over $1 million to prepare for the clean-up. The rest of the process is likely to cost at minimum $2.2 million more, including the expense of studies as the process continues.

One resident expressed concern about the level of noise which might be created as trucks and other machinery remove contaminated soil.

"We'll find equipment that's smaller and quieter [if that's a problem]. We'll try to minimize the impact. We'll do anything we have to do to minimize the impact on the neighbors," said Desai.

"AGFA is committed to cleaning up the site. Our best estimate is two years at this point in time [to complete the job]. It's an extremely interesting site, full of history. We know full well the historic value of the property. Upholding the integrity of the building and [tower] base have been factored into our planning," said Charlene Graff, an AGFA engineer who has been the lead person on the project.

In addition to members of the public, Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin McCarrick was in attendance, The site is within his district. McCarrick said he is interested in seeing the property cleaned up and used for a positive purpose in the future. One of the potential uses for the site after it is de-contaminated, is as a regional science museum. Friends of Science East, Inc. a local group, has been working towards achieving that goal. The comments and questions from this hearing will be included in the report to be reviewed by the DEC for approval in a Record of Decision (ROD). This process may take several months, after which AGFA will be asked to sign a consent, and the clean-up will begin. The public comment period will continue until March 27. Up to that time the public may send comments, concerns and questions to the DEC to be included in its decision-making on the project.

Source: The Sound Observer, Volume VIII, Number 15, page 1 (March 19, 2004)
(Reproduced with permission.)