Nov 23, 2004

DEC to clean tainted site in Jamaica

In two weeks, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will start removing the chemical perchloroethylene (PERC), from the soil at a former dry-cleaning distribution center in Jamaica. After 22 years and tests that detected a carcinogen in Southeast Queens drinking water, a cleanup of the contamination's source is finally in the works. The project is expected to take up to four months.

Scheduled is to take place in 2006, a combined project to treat PERC-contaminated groundwater and cleanup. The project is a culmination of five years of community efforts to improve the neighborhood. Residents, elected officials and representatives of DEC and the city Department of Environmental Protection gathered yesterday near the site of the cleanup to mark the milestone as cited by Newsday.

From 1969 to 1982, the West Side Corporation ran a dry-cleaning storage and chemicals distribution center that handled large amounts of PERC. When the business closed, it left behind spills and storage tank leaks that allowed chemicals to seep 60 feet into the soil. Tests later found PERC had tainted the groundwater and migrated nearly a half-mile.

Public meetings in 2000 and 2001 pressed the state to study the possible link between PERC-contaminated drinking water and illnesses. That study, finished in 2002, concluded that the rates of cancers in Jamaica were within the norms.

The state DEC will oversee the project, although the city DEP will provide the $11-million bill as part of its plan to create cleaner sources of drinking water.