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Hicksville buildings that handled uranium to be torn down

The exterior of buildings located at 70-140 Cantiague

The exterior of buildings located at 70-140 Cantiague Rock Rd. in Hicksville are seen on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. Demolition of these buildings will begin in March with radiation and contamination surveys taking place daily as the site formerly processed uranium and thorium for nuclear rods. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Verizon Communications plans to demolish two buildings at a former nuclear fuel manufacturing site in Hicksville that decades ago handled uranium, and the work will require daily tests for radiation and other contaminants.

If contamination is found at the former Sylvania Corning Plant and cannot be treated, it will have to be shipped off-site as radioactive waste to an approved facility, state Department of Environmental Conservation officials said.

From 1952 to 1965 the plant made cores, slugs and nuclear fuel elements for the Atomic Energy Commission inside buildings at 70 and 140 Cantiague Rock Rd., which are now vacant. Through a series of mergers Verizon became the property owner. The company will hire a certified radiological consultant to do the daily contamination tests.

The site is one of 24 across the nation that is part of an Army Corps of Engineers cleanup program remediating radioactive waste left over from America’s early atomic energy era. It is also part of a voluntary state hazardous site cleanup program.

Verizon spokesman Ray McConville said the company wanted to demolish the buildings because they weren’t being used and the company did not want to maintain them. He said the company was confident the work would not expose neighbors to dangerous contaminants. “The site is safe,” he said. “[We’re] performing surveys. We want to be transparent.”

Between 2003 and 2005, 58,000 cubic yards of waste containing the radioactive elements uranium and thorium, the possible carcinogen and solvent Tetrachloroethene, and nickel were removed from the site and taken to a nuclear waste facility in Utah.

DEC officials said they did not expect radiologicals to be found at the site because of previous cleanup work. The demolition work will not involve excavating soil or foundations and any holes will be filled with concrete grout.

Once the buildings are gone, the DEC will do a site analysis to look for non-radiological contamination.

Army Corps officials said the demolition work was outside the scope of its cleanup program. An off-site groundwater study is being conducted to see if contaminants have migrated to the aquifer. The Corps has $1 million this year for the study and another $950,000 budgeted next year to finish the work, Corps spokesman James D’Ambrosio said.

The property has long been controversial. Former employees at the site have reported dumping toxic cleaning solvents into unlined sumps and incinerating uranium, allowing the ashes to go airborne.

Meanwhile, the buildings have been a blight on the community, said Joel Berse, president of the NorthWest Civic Association of Hicksville.

“If they’re going to eliminate an eyesore, that’s great, but what are they going to unleash on us by demolishing?” he said.

Gina Miano, a manager at T & P Paper across the street from the site, said she had not been notified of the work. “Now that it’s actually happening, we should be a little concerned,” she said.

McConville said demolition work was expected to begin in March and take 30 days. The Town of Oyster Bay is processing a permit for the building at 70 Cantiague Rock Rd. A second one for the other building has not been filed. The town will do its routine inspections for gas, electric and rodent issues and, while the demolition permit is like any other, the town’s environmental consultant Hal Mayer said: “We’re conscious of the fact of the environmental sensitivities.”

In an unsigned statement from a general press email address, the state Department of Health said the agency reviewed the work plan and would be a “point of contact for community members who may have questions about site-related health matters.”

The agency did not respond to questions, such as if there was a hotline.


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