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Cleanup Update: Work at Tesla Lab to begin

by Jane Alcorn, 14 September 2005

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Department of Health held a public availability session on Monday, September 12 at the North Shore Public Library to give community members an opportunity to discuss Agfa Corporation's plans for contamination cleanup at the Peerless Photo Products site on Route 25A and Randall Road in Shoreham.

After more than ten years of soil and groundwater testing on the Peerless site, which began in September of 1993, the NYSDEC and Agfa Corporation unveiled an ambitious fifteen-week clean up to begin on September 19.

"Our goal is to be out by the end of the year," said Charlene Graff, a representative of Agfa Corporation. "We would like to be out by Christmas."

Many of the attending community members expressed surprise at the early start date and fast timeline. Girish Desai, Project Manager for the NYSDEC, responded by saying that it is something that cannot wait any longer.

"We have to get it done," said Desai. "The longer we wait, the more problems there will be."

The twelve-part plan involves the removal of contaminated soil from five specific areas on the site found to have elevated levels of the inorganic compounds cadmium and silver. The excavated areas will then be backfilled with clean soil and with soil from the site found to have acceptable levels of the contaminants.

The plan calls for better cleaning than the state requires, with concentration levels to be reduced to around 120 parts per million (ppm), rather than the state mandated 300 ppm.

"I am really glad because they are holding the clean up to a higher standard," said Mary Daum, president of the Shoreham Civic Organization. "It will be very good for the residential areas."

Three of the five contaminated areas run along the LILCO Right-Of-Way and the West Soil Storage Area. At these locations the contamination will be removed with a combination of excavation and off-site disposal of surface and subsurface soils, and then backfilled with clean soil.

A fourth area of concern is the North Recharge Basin in the northeast corner of the Peerless site. Cleanup in this area will entail excavation of surface and subsurface soils, followed by backfilling to two feet below ground level with excavated soils from the LIPA Right-Of-Way area that have been tested below the 300 ppm. The remaining two feet will then be backfilled with clean soil.

The fifth area of contamination is the Tesla Tower Base, where a twenty-foot diameter area will be excavated to a depth of thirty feet and backfilled with clean fill. As a precautionary measure to ensure no further leaching of contaminants into the groundwater, the area thirty feet to one hundred feet below ground will undergo in situ stabilization. In situ stabilization is a process for treating contaminated soils by solidifying the soils using either microbial polymers or asphalt/concrete mixtures.

Following the fifteen-week plan, Agfa Corporation will provide an annual certification, prepared and submitted by an environmental professional, which confirms that the controls and preventions put in place remain unchanged from year to year for a period of thirty years.

During the site clean up process, Agfa Corporation also has plans to remove three of the buildings on the site that have fallen into disrepair through years of neglect. Graff pointed out the Administration building, the Waste Water Treatment Plant, and an onsite former residence as those buildings in the process of being scheduled for demolition and removal.

"We are going to try to remove them while we have the trucks and the manpower onsite," said Graff.

The Peerless Photo Products site has not only been an area of contention due to the contamination problems, but has also been a place of interest for Friends of Science East, Inc., a local not-for-profit organization, which has been trying to convert the location into a science museum. The site was once the Long Island laboratory of famous scientist Nikola Tesla and includes a building designed by renowned architect Stanford White.

It is the hope of Friends of Science East, Inc. that once the decontamination process is complete, Agfa Corporation will hand it over to Town of Brookhaven which will then contract with the group to use the land as the aforementioned museum. Until such time, however, the people involved in the clean up are glad to have come this far.

"Happy ending," said Desai. "It's getting cleaned up."

Source: The Sound Observer (September 2005)
(Reproduced with permission.)