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Merrick dry cleaner added to state Superfund cleanup list

A Merrick dry cleaning business, whose owner has been cleaning up contaminants for 25 years, was designated a state Superfund site for a contaminated groundwater plume.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation classified Busy Bee Cleaners on Merrick Road as a Superfund site for PCE, or tetrachloroethene, in groundwater in the rear parking lot of the business. The Superfund site “presents a significant threat to public health and/or the environment,” according to the DEC.

The contaminated groundwater is not used for drinking water because the community is served by a public water supply from a different source. A residential neighborhood is located south of the site.

Busy Bee has been a family business since 1967, owner Robert Bernstein said. The business has been involved in a voluntary program with county and state authorities since 1994 to clean and remove soil contamination. The voluntary program was discontinued by the state last year. The state later added Busy Bee to its Superfund program.

“This was a dry-cleaning business in the 1960s and there were no regulations in place. Once regulations were enacted, we followed them, but the damage was done before that,” Bernstein said. “There was a full investigation and no impact on surrounding businesses or residents and it was contained to the property.”

The state DEC report said groundwater was contaminated in the Upper Glacial Aquifer from the top of the water table down to about 47 feet deep. The groundwater plume migrated off the flow of groundwater to the southeast, according to the state report.

Officials said direct contact with the contaminants in soil was unlikely because most of the one-third-acre site is covered in buildings and pavement.

Bernstein said he is finishing the cleanup of groundwater confined to one well at the 65-foot level, that he hopes to have remediated in the next year.

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