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State: MTA must file new cleanup plan at Yaphank site

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking to join

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking to join the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program for the cleanup of its former waste disposal yard in Yaphank. Credit: James Carbone

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must file a new plan to contain or remove contaminated soil from a former Yaphank rail yard because of a change in the state’s hazardous waste site cleanup program, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.

A previous remediation plan — in which the soil would be left in place and covered with an asphalt and concrete cap, proposed by the MTA in 2012 — is no longer valid because it was filed under the DEC’s Voluntary Cleanup Program, which is being phased out, DEC spokesman Sean Mahar said.

He said the MTA now is applying to join the DEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, a more stringent program that requires the transit agency to file a new proposal for dealing with contaminated soil at the Yaphank site.

A state judge last year vacated DEC approvals of the capping plan after Brookhaven sued to block it, and ordered the state to conduct a new review of how to address the contamination and add the property to the brownfields registry. The DEC and MTA said the new application under the brownfield program is not related to the judge’s ruling.

Studies have found as many as 29 contaminants — such as zinc, copper, arsenic and lead — at the 4-acre site east of River Road. The property had been a Long Island Rail Road waste disposal yard from the 1950s until the 1970s.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the 2012 proposal had been backed by the DEC under the voluntary cleanup program. Donovan said the agency had attached the 2012 plan to its application for the brownfield program, and he added that agency officials have not been told by DEC officials that the capping plan would have to be revised.

In addition to placing caps over most of the site to prevent the spread of contaminants to neighboring properties, that plan also called for new drainage at the site and some soil excavation.

Brookhaven Town officials have opposed that plan, and in 2014 sued to block it. Town officials want the MTA to remove hundreds of tons of soil from the site. Residents and officials have said the contamination poses a potential danger to nearby homes and the Carmans River.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine last week blasted the capping proposal and said town officials will insist on “a far more robust remediation plan.”

“We are not going to let them off the hook,” Romaine said in an interview. “We have an obligation to protect the river. All they want to do is put asphalt on it and cap it. That’s not going to happen.”

Mike Giacomaro, president of the East Yaphank Civic Association, said he favors excavating the site to prevent further environmental damage.

“It should be dug down,” Giacomaro said. “To me it would be easier for them to do that instead of cover it over.”

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