Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s Toxic Superfund Plastics Site: What You Need To Know

NuHart Plastics Superfund Site in Greenpoint, Brooklyn’ Photo: A. Simon

There’s a good chance you missed last week’s NuHart Plastics Superfund public meeting in Greenpoint, Brooklyn held on July 27; here’s what you need to know.

The Neighbors Allied For Good Growth (NAG) organized the meeting along with NYC Council Member Stephen Levin’s office at the senior housing complex, which is located at 80 Dupont St. directly across from the NuHart Plastics plant.

NAG recently acquired funding from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to hire Dr. Peter DeFur, President of the Environmental Stewardship Concepts (ESC) to act as the “technical advisor” at the NuHart site. Dr. deFur has a long history of working with communities affected by contamination and helped residents understand the nature of the NuHart site at the meeting.

The shuttered NuHart Plastics plant, a Class II Superfund site, is destined to be home to residential apartments with ground-floor retail in the near future, details of which are still being worked out.

First, a $10 million cleanup of an estimated 40,000–60,000 gallons of a toxic liquid plastics-softener known as phthalates must be completed, along with the cleanup of a second vaporous trichloroethane (TCE) plume; both of which are migrating or moving offsite towards nearby homes and businesses (watch the video below to get a full description of the NuHart site from Mike Schade, campaign director at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families).

Mike Schade Explains The NuHart Plastics Superfund Site. Video: A.Simon and H. Selemon

The three-and-a-half-hour meeting was at capacity and multiple agency representatives were on-hand to offer insight: Reps from the DEC, Greenpoint Landing developers, NAG, Stephen Levin’s office, NYC Parks, and the developer of the NuHart site were in attendance.

NuHart Plastics Superfund Community Meeting 7/27/15. Photo: A.Simon

Michael Roux, the Principal Hydrogeologist at Roux Associates, and environmental consultant to the NuHart developer, updated residents on the site’s status, which is divided into three separate areas overseen by different agencies.

Michael Roux of Roux Associates Updates Greenpoint Residents On The NuHart Plastics Superfund Site; 7/27/15. Photo: A.Simon
The NuHart Plume Map: The larger yellow circle (left) is the phthalates plume and the smaller yellow circle (upper right) is the TCE plume. Source: Greenpointers.com

The yellow box is a State Superfund Site managed by the DEC and the city Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) manages the red area. The blue box, or lot 57 as it’s named, Roux announced is free of contamination and will begin demolition and construction in the next two months if all goes according to plan:

“The blue box, Lot 57, is uncontaminated. The plan as of right now is for construction of an as-of-right building five-to-six stories residential,” said Roux. “The goal is to keep it inline with the existing architecture of the neighborhood. The schedule is ‘as soon as possible,’ we’d like to be out there in a-month-or-two, but I don’t know for sure, that’s the goal,” said Roux.

“The other two boxes, we have found contamination on those two parcels. They’re separated by color because the yellow box is currently the New York State DEC Superfund site,” said Roux. “The red box is not [a Superfund-designated site], and we have found some contamination there, but that is going to be managed primarily through the city Department of Environmental Remediation and their E-Designation program,” said Roux.

This raised concerns for a local resident who asked Roux for more information: “Has anyone done a study as to how demolition of Lot 57 might disturb the plume or the toxins in the two adjacent properties?”

“As far as I know, no specific study has been conducted for that. From my understanding of the contaminants, the location and how they migrate, I wouldn’t think it’s a concern,” said Roux.

To further calm worries, Roux added: “We’re not going to do any development of these sites without a lot of coordination with the city and the state…you all have a say in that process with the public comment period.” The comment period for the yellow and red portions of the site will be announced in the coming months, while plans for Lot 57 move forward.

The next step in the process for the developer is to submit the feasibility study for the DEC to review and approve or offer recommendations. According to Roux, the feasibility study should be submitted by mid-September and a survey of all utilities in the area is the important remaining piece of information to be evaluated:

“The state has asked the consultant doing that report to survey all the utilities in the area, and that work is taking a little bit longer than expected, once that’s done, which should be in the next few weeks, all that information will be incorporated into the feasibility study…sometime in September would be a good goal,” said Roux.

Dr. deFur followed Roux’s presentation at the meeting and it was the first time the Greenpoint community met their technical advisor. With an emphasis on the strong community turnout at the meeting, deFur suggested that local participation in the cleanup process can make a “world of difference.”

Dr. Peter deFur introduces himself to the Greenpoint Community on 7/27/15. Video: A. Simon

There was some confusion as to what a “plume” is and how it may affect the lives of local residents. Watch the video below for deFur’s explanation.

Dr. Peter deFur explains what a plume is at the Greenpoint community meeting on 7/27/15. Video: A. Simon.

Some residents were clearly shaken by the information that they learned at the meeting, including a woman who discovered that her apartment building is currently on top of the phthalates plume; the woman voiced her fears for her daughter’s safety, proclaiming that she has to relocate now.

Many residents also voiced their concerns over air monitoring and the DEC representative reminded them that the DEC has hundreds of air monitors throughout the city, however there are not specific air monitors at the NuHart site as of now.

The environmental consultant to the Greenpoint Landing developer said that they actively monitor the air when soil is exposed, but he also said that no soil is exposed at the site as of right now. Council Member Levin said that he would work on drafting legislation for community air monitoring for exceptional circumstances such as Greenpoint Landing where dense construction near contaminated land is taking place in a highly residential area.

In the meantime it is up to Greenpoint residents to keep an eye out and their cameras ready to document any carelessness at the construction sites.