Greenpoint is getting ready to get clean.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has placed three polluted North Brooklyn locations on the state Superfund, setting in motion a government-financed cleanup of contaminants that may put neighbors at risk of cancer and other health problems.
The state is preparing to remove chlorinated solvents — which are often by-products of metal cleaning and dry cleaning — from the soil beneath a long-closed dry cleaner at 364 Richardson St. and Acme Architectural Products, which occupies an entire city block bounded by Anthony Street, Lombardy Street, Porter Avenue and Vandervoort Avenue (the site is technically two Superfund sites).
It’s unclear exactly how the pollutants contaminated the groundwater and soil vapor beneath the streets of Greenpoint, DEC spokesman Thomas Panzone told The Brooklyn Paper, but in the past such toxins have turned out underground through accidental spills and intentional dumping.
Once underground, the solvents can dissolve into groundwater, migrate into air pockets, and potentially return to street level and homes as dangerous vapors.
The state is still studying the extent of the contamination and planning how to clean up the pollutants. If possible, the state seeks reimbursement from the dirty business that caused the pollution.
“All of the companies that are determined to be responsible for solvent contamination related to these sites will be pursued by New York State to either fund the cleanups or reimburse New York State for our costs to perform these cleanups,” Panzone said.
If the businesses are not deemed responsible — or no longer exist as is the case with now-closed Klink Cosmo Cleaners — state money will fund the remediation.
Michael Teich, one of the owners of Acme Architectural Products, claims that the mess under his property didn’t come from illegal dumping.
“It’s not something that’s part of our way of doing business,” Teich said.
“This is something that we were alerted of very recently. We’re looking into it.”
Neighborhood activists aren’t surprised to hear about the toxic sites, which primarily consist of the solvent tetrachloroethene, a suspected carcinogen that researchers say can cause central nervous system problems, liver and kidney damage, nausea, confusion, and death.
“This stuff doesn’t get spilled — it gets dumped,” said community advocate Deborah Masters. “It’s not really expensive to put it in a proper repository, but [some] guys keep dumping because they’re cheapskates.”
Ironically, part of the contaminated site was discovered when ExxonMobil studied the neighborhood in its efforts to clean up its own mess — an underground oil seepage that is actually three times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.