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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
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
"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
"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
"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.)