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Shoreham Peerless/Agfa Property Cleanup Almost Done

by Jane Alcorn, 5 January 2007

After years of examination and work, the cleanup at the former Peerless Photo Products site in Shoreham is just about done. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), the agency that oversees the remediation of the site, recently sent to Agfa Corporation, the owners of the property, its response to Agfa's cleanup reports and data. The response required Agfa to redo one part of the cleanup, a "minor" job of soil removal and clean soil replacement, on the LIPA/Keyspan right-of-way. At the conclusion of that cleanup, the property will be finished with the long process of remediation under the NYS DEC review.

The property was owned for years by Peerless, after which it was sold to Agfa. Agfa used it to continue photo products manufacture for several years, before finally deciding that it was no longer needed for that purpose. Agfa then determined that under the law it had to clean up the property before it could be sold or passed on to another owner.

The cleanup began more than a decade ago with a survey of the property and many months and years of evaluation of the contamination, in which Agfa had to characterize each of the contaminated spots on the property, determine the sources, extent, and types of contamination, decide on an appropriate remediation response for each, and provide the information on how it would be accomplished. Along with that, tests of many areas on the 16.2-acre site were performed, including special borings into the remains of a 120-foot tower base, and well and water monitoring, both on and off the site.

For each step, reports were sent by Agfa to NYS DEC, were commented on, and revisions were suggested or required. The Suffolk County Department of Health also reviewed the documents and offered comments. Agfa would then typically develop changes and alternative remediation actions to the NYS DEC requests, eliciting further response from the agency. Along the way there were also hearings on the final cleanup plan.

"They are just wrapping up," said Girish Desai of NYS DEC. "The major work has been done."

The actual soil removal and stabilization for some of the property was done within the last few years. For the most contaminated spots it was begun this past summer, and completed within a few months. Since then, the follow-up testing and data collection has been going on, along with preparation of the reports to the DEC.

"We're getting there. We just received information that we have to take a little more soil out at the LIPA right-of-way. Two spots showed a slight exceedance [of contamination levels]," said Charlene Graff, an Agfa project engineer.

She said Agfa would be contacting contractors to perform the soil removal and replacement, and she expected it would occur at the beginning of this year. She said once contractors were hired, the weather would play a part in how quickly the work could be done.

One of the most difficult parts of the project was in determining how to prevent any contaminants from leaching into the groundwater from the contaminated places, especially the tower base. The base is left from the communications tower built at the beginning of the 1900s by scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, whose brick laboratory still exists on the property. Over the last 100 years it has been used as a waste dump for unwanted materials by previous owners and others. The remedy to prevent water table contamination from leachate from the tower base was to cap and stabilize the soil with a concrete-like slurry that hardened the soil, preventing rainwater from bringing contaminants down into the water. Most of the rest of the contaminated portions of the property were remediated by soil removal and replacement.

According to Graff, Agfa plans to remove some of the remaining buildings before they decide on what they will do with the property. The office building on the corner of Route 25A and Randall Road will be removed.

"It's not structurally in good shape," said Graff, noting that the roof is in a state of dangerous disrepair.

The old wastewater treatment plant on the west side of the land, some of the auxiliary buildings attached to the Tesla laboratory, and the old white house facing Route 25A are also slated for removal. The house is believed to have asbestos-related issues, and some of the manufacturing buildings will be assessed for asbestos as well. These structure removals will not require DEC oversight, but can be accomplished by Agfa through normal approvals from the proper local government offices.

"We don't want someone to inherit these problems," said Graff.

Friends of Science East, a local group, would like to turn the old Tesla laboratory into a science museum, with the land being used for a community park. The group has garnered the support of many local people and elected officials. They hope Agfa will donate the land to Brookhaven Town and that Brookhaven will contract with them to create the museum when all the work on the site is done.

Graff would not speculate on Agfa's final disposition of the property, although she said that there have been some conversations with Brookhaven Town about it.

"Until the work is complete we won't make a decision," she said.

Source: The Sound Observer, Volume XI, Number 11, page 1 (January 5, 2007)
(Reproduced with permission.)