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State workers start clean-up at toxic Norman Avenue site

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A toxic factory on Norman Avenue is getting its own scrubbing,

State workers have begun a multi-year clean-up at the former dry cleaning plant, where plumes of gas were found underground four years ago.

The chemicals are widely known to be carcinogenic, but state health and environmental officials insist that neither the soil gas nor its clean-up poses a risk to residents’ health.

“Neighbors may have noticed [workers] installing wells and collecting samples, but there are no effects on the neighborhood as a result,” said state environmental spokeswoman Lori Severino.

Once owned by the Spic and Span Cleaners and Dyers, the property is now occupied by a warehouse and a woodworking shop, and is adjacent to several blocks of houses from Kingsland Avenue to Monitor Street.

The state pinpointed four sites in northeast Greenpoint as the source of contamination after workers discovered high concentrations of the chemical tetrachloroethene in both the soil and groundwater in several places in the neighborhood.

State officials tracked the chemicals back to the dry cleaning factory, which used such toxins to sterilize clothes.

Later, state contractors drilled test wells on Norman Avenue, Kingsland Avenue and Monitor Street, and offered indoor air testing to area homes.

In January, 2009, the Department of Environmental Conservation declared the property a state Superfund site, allowing the state to seek funds from the polluters for the clean-up.

That’s good news to residents of Greenpoint, where toxic chemicals lurk underground.

“Cancer-causing chemicals have no place in the ground around our homes and community,” said environmental activist Michael Schade, who hailed the clean-up.

For the next 18 to 24 months, contractors will collect samples, the first step before the agency can propose a remedy.

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