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Contaminants found at Garvies Point site; sides disagree on effects

The $960 million Garvies Point project in Glen

The $960 million Garvies Point project in Glen Cove is being built on land that used to house a metal-processing plant, salvage yard and oil storage tanks. Credit: Barry Sloan

Elevated levels of contaminants have been found in the soil and water on and near the construction site for the Garvies Point waterfront project in Glen Cove.

Garvies Point opponents say that indicates a threat to public health, but the federal and state environmental agencies that spearheaded a $120 million remediation of the land say the level of contaminants does not pose health risks at this time.

A DEC official said close monitoring of discharges continues, and the agency hasn’t ruled out future enforcement action against Uniondale-based developer RXR Glen Isle Partners or the city of Glen Cove.

The DEC “will use all legal and regulatory tools that we have to protect public health and the environment,” the official said Tuesday.

The $960 million RXR project — set to include 1,110 condominiums and apartments, parks and other amenities — is being built on land that had been home to a metal-processing plant, salvage yard, oil storage tanks and other industrial uses.

Amy Marion, an attorney for plaintiffs in two lawsuits seeking to annul city approval for the project, said the discharges of contaminants underline the suits’ call for new environmental studies. The environmental impact statement for Garvies Point dates from 2011.

“It indicates to us that we were right all along,” she said. “That’s the point of the lawsuit. There were no studies done” in recent years.

A Nassau County Supreme Court judge last year dismissed one of the suits and its call for a new environmental study. The 105 plaintiffs in the suit are appealing.

Testing by DEC and RXR found that elevated levels of several contaminants — including chlorinated solvents, heavy metals, PCBs and total dissolved solids — is in water flowing from an outfall into Glen Cove Creek, DEC officials said. The agency is studying the source of the contaminants, some of which may come outside RXR property and from stormwater runoffs from roads, the DEC said.

The DEC also found elevated levels of PCBs in an inland drainage system. The agency ordered the drain shut down on Sept. 18 until problems are resolved.

DEC granted RXR’s request to discharge from that drainage system more than 14 times the concentration of perchloroethylene — also called PCE — than is allowed under a statewide standard, a level Marion called “horrifying” and a risk to swimmers in nearby Hempstead Harbor.

The DEC is allowing the higher discharge amount for only six months, which would be until March 5, if the drain is unplugged.

A DEC official said the statewide standard is for fresh water that could be used for drinking water, and the creek is saltwater, so a higher level of PCE is not a health risk.

Frank Haftel, director of the Garvies Point project for RXR, said the request was because, during excavation, some isolated spots of groundwater may have higher PCE levels.

Frank Piccininni, another attorney for the suits’ plaintiffs, said the high level of PCE indicates a lack of detailed study on discharges.

Michael Zarin, an attorney for the city on the Garvies Point project, said the discharges of some contaminants is “a completely typical and normal occurrence at any major redevelopment and brownfields site.”

A DEC official said that agency employees are doing full-time oversight at the construction site, and that “nothing goes forward without our express consent. . . . We’re very comfortable that the remedial program that is ongoing, in conjunction with redevelopment, will be fully protective [to human health] at the end of the day.”

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