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Tests show displaced Long Beach sand is clean

Marine Scientist James Cervino takes samples of the

Marine Scientist James Cervino takes samples of the sand at Long Beach to be tested for contamination. (Jan. 3, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Sand being put back onto the beach in Long Beach is clean of contaminants, according to preliminary results from an ongoing testing program of 200,000 cubic yards of the displaced sand.

A group of environmental experts -- representing the company contracted by the city to return the sand to the beach -- collected random samples Thursday from stockpiles on the beach at National Boulevard and at Lincoln Boulevard. The composite sample -- the fourth taken three weeks into a multimonth process -- is being sent to a lab for more thorough testing.

"We are screening to make sure we are putting back uncontaminated and chemically-free sand," said James Cervino, a marine and environmental scientist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Cape Cod, Mass. "This sand is going to be better than what it was."

Crews have been using a sieve with quarter-inch holes to screen a mound of beach sand that reached almost as high as electricity poles in a vacant lot between Riverside Boulevard and Long Beach Road along Broadway. The goal: to eliminate any construction and demolition material. The sand is being dumped on the beach in 5,000-cubic-yard piles, which are tested individually.

The work is part of an effort by Long Beach officials to replenish the beach after superstorm Sandy coated city streets with sand.

"The boardwalk and the beach are synonymous with Long Beach," city spokesman Gordon Tepper said. "It is natural to get the boardwalk and beach back up as soon as possible."

According to state Department of Environmental Conservation guidelines, "Prior to sand being stockpiled, City of Long Beach personnel performed visual and olfactory (smell) tests to identify stained or potentially oil-contaminated soils which were otherwise disposed," DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said in a statement.

For nearly two hours Thursday, Cervino and representatives from the city's Huntington-based contractor Look Great Services and from CCI Environmental Services based in Salisbury, N.C., climbed mounds of sand alongside the battered boardwalk to conduct field testing. The group collected in 20 spots to make a composite sample, which will be sent to York Analytical Labs in Stratford, Conn., to be tested for metals, pesticides, asbestos and oil-related compounds. Each sample testing will cost about $900, Cervino said.

"It is actually surprisingly clean," he said about the three sample results received so far. "The sand has been coming back chemical-free and pollutant-free."

About 50 samples will be tested under DEC protocols by the end of the project, Cervino said. The entire process could take a "couple of months" depending on weather conditions, he said. "You can't rush environmental safety. We are going to make sure the sand is safe going back."

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