Thursday night at a public meeting at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the state unveiled its plan to decontaminate the long-vacant Kent Avenue Generating Station site, which sits on the south Williamsburg waterfront at Kent and Division Street. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation has analyzed the former power plant site and discovered several contaminants, including asbestos, arsenic, PCBs, VOCs (volatile organic compounds like benzene) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). It also found an underground oil storage tank on the north end of the site, and a big part of its cleanup plan will involve excavating the tank and digging up the asbestos, which is buried a couple feet underground. The plant was built in 1909 to power elevated trains and streetcars for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit company and then sold in 1950 to Con Ed, who used it as a power plant until retiring it in 1999.
Although Con Edison demolished the century-old seven-story power plant in 2008, they didn’t start decontaminating the site until the fall of 2011. But before they pulled the building down, they did do an asbestos abatement, meaning they removed all the asbestos from the plant and disposed of it safely. Many neighbors present at the meeting were concerned that they had been breathing contaminated dust from the site, but state officials assured them that Con Ed had backfilled the ground with clean soil after pulling down the old electric power plant, and that the rest of the contaminants are buried a couple feet below ground.
While the plan is quite detailed, the basic outline is that excavation and cleanup will take several months, starting this fall and continuing into the spring (the state didn’t offer any exact dates). To prevent toxic dust from escaping into the neighborhood, the state’s construction crew will constantly wet down the piles of dirt during excavation and cover them with tarps when they’re not working. Officials estimate they will need to remove 11,000 cubic yards of dirt from the site, roughly two truckloads per hour during six months of work. Before the trucks leave the property, workers will hose them down to clean off any dust, and then the trucks will go over a “decon pad” to take dust off the tires. The site sits across the street from a park with a children’s playground and apartment buildings.
After 500 Kent Avenue has been cleaned, the state will sell the property at a “competitive” price through a broker, and multi-family homes or apartment buildings can be built on it. Also, the Public Service Commission will have to approve the sale.
There’s a 45-day public comment period on the state’s decontamination plan ending September 27. If you want to look at the environmental analysis or the current plan, you can find all the documents here on Con Ed’s website by clicking on the “Kent Avenue” tab. Neighbors who want to report dust, odor, or noise from the site can get in touch with project manager Douglas MacNeal at NYSDEC or Antonia Yuille at Con Ed, whose contact info is listed here. Also, regular air monitoring updates will be posted on Con Ed’s website. GMAP