By Gary Buiso
Before a waste transfer station moves in, the toxic goop that lies beneath Gravesend Bay must be carefully studied in order to thwart “environmental damage,” a federal lawmaker recently cautioned. Rep. Jerrold Nadler insisted the Department of Sanitation’s (DOS) Solid Waste Management Plan, which calls for the construction at a waste transfer station at 1824 Shore Parkway, requires further scrutiny. In an early February letter to Alexander Grannis, the newly appointed commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which has oversight of the plan, Nadler said his “primary concern” is the potential devastation of Gravesend Bay’s ecosystem, “should the plan process without additional research and oversight.” “There are still a number of questions to be answered before permits for the proposed dredging of the site should be issued,” Nadler said. The waste transfer facility is one of several planned citywide as part of the DOS’s Solid Waste Management Plan. The DEC has approved the overall plan, but it has not signed off on permits that would allow the construction of the facility by the bay. The facility’s arrival has rankled those who feel it could bring ruin to the bay’s ecosystem—and potentially threaten human health. The plan calls for the area’s trash to be hauled on barges, and then shipped out. A recent report conducted by Dr. Peddrick Weis of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found increased levels of lead and mercury on the surface level of the sediment in Gravesend Bay. Wildlife could be endangered if the bay’s sediment is dredged—as is planned in order to allow greater depth for the barges to pass through the bay. In the study, Weis warned that, “disseminating toxic material via dredging is high.” The fear is that the toxins could kill the marine life that fills the bay—and potentially endanger animals, including humans, who might eat fish caught there. Nadler said the contents of the dredged soil are “of concern.” “It is clear that further testing is necessary to understand the extent of the toxicity of the soil and the potential for risk, particularly in order to update the public on changes since the 2004 dismantling of a garbage incinerator that functioned on the site for many years,” Nadler said. “No dredging of the site should occur without first having all requisite information and taking all possible precautions,” the federal lawmaker warned. Robert Gottheim, Nadler’s district director, said his boss is not necessarily opposed to the facility’s arrival to Gravesend Bay. “We’re not up to the point where we’re saying we need to look at another site,” Gottheim said. “We are interested to find out whether we can do the dredging and have it done in a safe, environmental manner,” he continued. “We should really look at how the dredging is being done and take a look at the toxins that are there.” He said the congressman is not, however, dismissing the option of calling for another site entirely. The Department of Sanitation has told this paper that it moving forward with the plan, and it will meet all environmental regulation. Maureen Wren, a spokesperson for the DEC, has said the agency is reserving its opinion on the facility until the public weighs in on the project. The DEC has requested additional information from the city, in order to make the permit application available for the public to view. Assemblyman William Colton, a vocal opponent of the facility’s arrival, noted that Weis used the term “black mayonnaise” to describe the samples taken from the bay—a far from encouraging assessment. “I believe this study is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what remains to be found in the waters of Gravesend Bay,” Colton told DEC.