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West Islip residents raise concerns over Superfund site cleanup

Chromium and cadmium have been detected at the

Chromium and cadmium have been detected at the former Dzus Fastener manufacturing site in West Islip, shown June 15, 2016. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

West Islip residents on Wednesday raised public health and environmental safety concerns over a proposed plan to clean a Superfund site on Union Boulevard.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation held a public meeting at the West Islip Public Library about mitigation plans for the former Dzus Fastener site at 425 Union Blvd., where after decades of monitoring, elevated levels of the carcinogenic compounds cadmium and chromium were detected last year near Willetts Creek.

Because of the resurgent levels of the carcinogens, the state has reclassified the site from “site properly closed — requires continued management” to posing a “significant threat to the public health or environment.”

The DEC has proposed a $12.57 million cleanup plan to remove soil and sediment in the affected wetlands area, including a portion of the Willetts Creek channel upstream of Lake Capri. The plan also includes restoring the excavated area near the creek, and replacing topsoil and plantings.

DEC officials at Wednesday’s meeting told residents the goal is to not just clean the site but to restore it to good condition. “Once the sediment is removed everything will be put back” to its natural state, said Payson Long, the DEC project manager.

Resident Lorraine Pace said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and wanted the state to further investigate possible links between the site’s contaminants and cancer clusters through updated public health surveys. “I would just like to see a better survey done,” she said.

Public health specialist Scarlett McLaughlin from the state Department of Health told Pace that cancer is “several different diseases” and not likely to have been explicitly caused by one factor.

Resident Scott Petraglia asked if the town of Islip could maintain the grounds near the footbridge over Willetts Creek, where litter and debris cluster. Islip Town Councilman Steve Flotteron said as soon as the state is done with its remediation, the town can take care of the area. “Once this is cleaned up, yes, the town will maintain it,” he said.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director with the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, praised the scope of the remediation plan and asked for the state to also include cleaning the Willetts Creek water as well. “We strongly support the selected remedy,” she said, and added, “I think it’s a very good idea to have a stream remediation plan.”

The DEC in 1999 removed contaminated sediment from Willetts Creek, Lake Capri and from groundwater. The DEC is planning to retest contaminated sediment at Lake Capri in the next phase of the cleanup plan.

The state is accepting written comments about the proposed effort until Aug. 21 via email at payson.long@dec.ny.gov or by mail to Long at the Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Remediation, 625 Broadway, Albany NY, 12233.

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