You are here

Court Street coal tar remediation to start Monday


It turns out that the one Plain Street neighbor with 10 inches of carcinogenic coal tar under her yard works at the Cancer Resource Center and has two sisters who've survived breast cancer.

NYSEG has recently completed an extensive environmental cleanup of coal tar on the half-block bounded by Court, Plain and Esty streets where its predecessor ran a gas plant for 75 years. But even after 10 years of testing and cleanup, more coal tar remains.

Excavation on yet another section of coal tar contamination under West Court Street is set to begin Monday, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation is still developing plans for how to deal with remaining contamination.

The DEC hosted a public meeting Thursday at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School to explain plans for removing another set of old wooden ducts beneath Court Street between Meadow and Fulton streets. NYSEG's predecessor used the ducts to move coal tar from the plant to Cayuga Inlet.

NYSEG spent three years digging up most of the ducts between Plain and Meadow streets, in some places digging 20 feet down to remove all the coal tar, said DEC project manager Bill Ottaway. The work between Meadow and Fulton will be similar, including odor control and community air monitoring, he said.

Testing just north and west of the recently excavated gas plant site, on Plain and Esty, found that coal tar has migrated off site, though only one nearby neighbor had actual coal tar contamination in her property, Ottaway said.

That neighbor, Plain Street homeowner Jyl Dowd, said she was told there were 10 inches of coal tar beneath her yard. Chemicals were found in Dowd's basement, but at levels low enough that the DEC is not concerned about her health, according to Ottaway and Dowd.

Because of that, DEC will not require NYSEG to excavate and remove the coal tar, Ottaway and DEC geologist Gardner Cross said. Dowd said DEC and NYSEG officials came to her house to explain the testing and assert that she shouldn't be worried about the coal tar in her yard.

"I said, 'You do know that I work at the Cancer Resource Center and I have two sisters with breast cancer?'" Dowd said. "'And although I'm perfectly aware that everyone is exposed to carcinogens every day, it doesn't mean that it's acceptable to me to be exposed to even more.'"

Dowd and Toxics Targeting President Walter Hang pressed the issue at Thursday night's meeting, and Ottaway responded that "if (Dowd) wants a complete remediation, that's really a conversation she should have with NYSEG."

A breach in the Court Street duct many years ago led to "fairly significant" groundwater contamination at the intersection of Esty and Washington streets, Ottaway said. Even after NYSEG excavated the area in 2002-03, DEC is still finding high readings, and a full remedial investigation will have to deal with the remaining contamination there, as well as in the streets north and west of the plant site, he said.

PDF icon ij_CourtStDredg_101021-HL.pdf35.91 KB