2008 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2008 15:59:08 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] [Fwd: School in Harlem Still Unusable. What threat to Harlem Armory?]

Date: 	Tue, 16 Dec 2008 17:34:49 -0500
From: 	tapashb@aol.com


Community Asks Why a School in Harlem is Still Unusable (since 1997)
What threat is posed to Harlem Armory Community Gym?

In a December 12th 2008 Larry Schnapf, Esq. sent a letter to Rosalie Rosinko, Esq. Attorney for New York Department of Environmental Conservation, about the site investigation and cleanup of spill of solvents involving Tetrachloroethylene (Perchloroethylene/PCE), a proven carcinogen and liver toxin at 2350 Fifth Avenue, Harlem New York, the site of a prior dry cleaners, operated by the Joseph Karten, Senior. In 1997 the site had been renovated as a School (PS141), but was closed when solvent was detected contaminating the indoor air of the School.

This recent letter was prompted by a two-year investigation of the site by Mr. John Bee of Tapash, Environmental Consultant for the tenants and indicated the Owner has failed to comply with numerous requirements of the Orders on Consent of the NYSDEC since the Owner entered into the agreement to investigate and cleanup the site in 1997 and 2001

The letter stated the Cleanup that had been implemented since 1997 has been ineffective, the spill was continuing to impact the building, making the valuable Harlem School space unusable and in danger of impacting the Harlem Armory gymnasium recently opened in September 2006 by Mayor Bloomberg. The Treatment System, a Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) System, is under-designed and has proved to be ineffective in reducing the source of solvent vapor intrusion into the building air and sub-floor that endanger the occupants and is migrating towards the adjacent Harlem Armory. Larry Schnapf requested that the Responsible Party (the Owner) of the property, 2350 Fifth Avenue Corporation, take the following actions to protect the tenants and occupants of the 2350 Fifth Avenue building, according to the 1997 and 2001 order on consent.

· Undertake Source Removal by excavation of the remaining contaminated soils and insulation under the building that is acting as a continuing source of contamination of the indoor air at the building; · Upgrade the existing soil vapor e xtraction (SVE) system to increase its zone of influence and effectiveness; and · Installation of a sub-slab depressurization system (SSDS) throughout the footprint of the building to complement the SVE The existing SVE treatment system was operated for five years and when it was turned off there was an immediate rebound in PCE concentrations in the indoor air, far in excess of NYSDOH guidance values - demonstrating that the present cleanup was ineffective. Moreover, the cleanup is confined to the Northwest quarter of the building and does not address the vapor plume that has migrated beyond the capture zone of the treatment system.

The SVE system is not powerful enough to clean up the site. No radius of influence of the SVE suction was detected when measuring the vacuum drawn on the nine soil vapor monitoring points through the floor slab and neighboring wells. This is further evidence that the SVE is poorly designed and maintained. The entire building failed NYSDOH guidelines for PCE exposure. During an August 2008 site visit by Messrs. Copley, Hackman and Bee, (Consultants for the tenants) high concentrations of up to 199,000 ppbv of soil vapors were detected in the ground at SG-7 outside the North wall of the building under the sidewalk on 142nd Street and across from the Harlem Armory building. These readings confirm the high concentration of vapor detected in January 2008, and reported by AKRF, (Consultant for the Owner) outside the building under the sidewalk of West 142nd Street (332,000 ug/m3 PCE in SG-7) indicating the contaminated vapors are leaving t he property in a northerly direction. These concentrations of solvent are typical of soils with an insoluble, separate phase of pure solvent (i.e., DNAPL). This suspected DNAPL may not follow the groundwater flow and appears to be headed north towards the Harlem Armory operated by the City of New York, Department of Corrections and the multi-purpose youth center opened in September 2006 by Mayor Bloomberg.

Mr. Bee and Mr. Schnapf, Esq., representing the tenants, first met with NYSDEC and NYSDOH on November 20, 2006 to discuss concerns about the environmental conditions at the site. At the November 2006 meeting, Mr. Bee and Mr. Schnapf explained that American Self Storage operated a storage facility with seven full-time workers and approximately 50-100 visitors present on any given day. The tenants expressed their frustration about the pace and extent of the cleanup. The tenants expressed the view that it appeared that the contamination has not been a priority to the NYSDEC, that the NYSDEC has been more concern with delineating the extent of the plume migrating off the site rather than focusing on removing the source of the contamination beneath the Premises or eliminating the vapor intrusion pathway affecting occupants of the building. The tenants also expressed alarm that there had been a rebound in indoor air concentrations of PCE, that the tenants had not been receiving timely information from the Owner on the remediation, and that the lack of timely information complicated the ability of the tenants to determine the appropriate steps that needed to be taken to protect their workers and clients from exposure to PCE. Mr. Bee also shared the preliminary results of sampling that had been performed by PSI (a testing firm) on November 6, 2006 showing that three of the four samples detected concentrations of PCE that exceeded the NYSDOH indoor air guideline values. As a result, the tenants asked the NYSDEC to order the Owner to take more aggressive remedial actions to eliminate the documented human exposures at the Premises. On December 27, 2006, Mr. Bee provided the PSI sampling report to the NYSDEC and NYSDOH. He noted that the Soil Vapor Extraction System (SVE) and carbon filters and suction piping installed by the Owner are inadequate and that the SVE well coverage needed to be expanded because the real extent of the vapor intrusion had expanded. He recommended that a second SVE system be installed to address the portion of the building that the current SVE was not addressing. Since the November 2006 meeting, Mr. Bee has conducted several rounds of indoor air sampling. The sampling events detected significant exceedances of NYSDOH indoor air quality guidelines for PCE and TCE, in the northwest quadrant of the Building in 2007, and high concentrations in uncontrolled soil vapors below and adjacent to the north wall of the building in 2008 even while the SVE system was operating. In March 2008, Mr. Bee again informed the NYSDEC project manager, Bryan Wong that the SVE was in disrepair. Specifically, Mr. Bee advised Mr. Wong that some of the piping joints were disjointed and patched with duct tape that appeared to be in poor condition and possibly leaking, the SVE system had inadequate vacuum (as evidenced by the inlet vacuum gauge readings) and that some sample ports were not properly sealed (capped), thereby creating a vapor intrusion pathway and potentially allowing contaminated air to infiltrate into the building and creating vacuum leaks that diluted the effectiveness of the SVE system. Mr. Bee also pointed out the decrepit condition of the SVE to AKRF staff during a site visit and asked that they verify the performance of the system as well as review the maintenance of the system. AKRF are the Owner’s cleanup contractors).

When no further action was taken, the tenants requested per mission to install a more robust remedial system to ensure that its workers and occupants would be adequately protected from the vapors migrating from the contamination between the slabs and beneath the building. The tenants proposed installing a 20 HP blower that would have suction of 90 inches of water with significantly broader coverage area. By email dated March 24, 2008, Rosalie Rosinko, Esq. an attorney with NYSDEC advised Larry Schnapf that: “Before the Department can even begin to discuss this issue …… you must obtain a letter from the owner of the Site stating that he has authorized your client to enhance/expand the system on his behalf. Also, any expansion or modification to a remedial system has to be designed by a P.E. with a New York State license. The P.E. has to certify to the Department that construction of the system is in accordance to the approved plan.”

By email dated March 31, 2008, NYSDEC indicated it would only consider discussing the modification20when the tenants obtained the services of a NY licensed PE and obtained agreement from the Owner. NYSDEC also emphasized that “We will not entertain discussions with Mr. Bee.”

In an email dated August 26, 2008 to NYSDEC, Larry Schnapf summarized the continuing concerns of the tenants about the site as follows:

1. These air sample results are why the tenants feels its workers and visitors are being exposed to unhealthy levels of VOCs and why the tenants requested permission to install a more robust SVE system for the self-storage area. The tenants are very concerned that the SVE system is not being properly maintained in violation of the two AOCs and is inadequate=2 0to protect the occupants and pharmaceutical reps coming to the facility to pick up their medical supplies. These are young women of child-bearing age and we are very concerned that their workers and visitors are being exposed to unhealthy levels of VOCs. 2. Because of the sample results the tenants feel it is unreasonable to wait another six months or so for a remedial action to be designed and installed. Perhaps Bryan Wong or Jane O’Connell his NYSDEC supervisor or Dawn Hettricks from NYSDOH can discuss the levels that have been detected to explain why they think there is not an immediate health risk to workers and visitors at the site.

In our August 27th 2008 conference call with NYSDEC, Mr. Chris Kopley (Environmental Consultant) explained to NYSDOH and NYSDEC representatives that he had observed the fol lowing:
·                  a system piping was held together with duct tape
· the discharge pipe had been measured to be emitting 1643 ppb PCE from a discharge point 15 feet above the sidewalk and directed downwards to the pedestrian breathing zone. As you know, no detectable emissions are permitted under the ECL; · the influent suction pressure appeared to be inadequate (inlet vacuum gauge reading 7 inches of Water Gauge), implying that there were significant leaks in the SVE vacuum ductwork and that the SVE system was woefully woefully under-designed; and, · there were unlabelled and corroded waste drums scattered about the site, including an unlabeled drum left on a public sidewalk along 142nd Street This is what we saw at time Mr. Bee also said it was his opinion that the SVE system was not properly working because it was under-designed and poorly maintained in violation of the Consent Orders. Both Messrs. Copley and Bee said it was their opinion that PCE vapors and a DNAPL (insoluble pure solvent) plume were migrating off-site to the North towards the basement of the Armory on 142nd Street operated by th e Dept of Corrections for juvenile offenders.


The existing SVE system piping was installed in the space between the upper and lower slabs to remove VOC including PCE from the space below the floor from where it could infiltrate into the building. The piping was installed in this location to remove VOCs preferentially from those areas where there were breaks in the old slabs that could serve as pathways for vapors to migrate upwards. Six horizontal vapor extraction wells were installed to maintain a negative pressure between the slabs in the entire portion of the School known to be underlain with insulation which contained solvent.

The Workplan ad dendum to the 2001 consent order provided for an Operation and Maintenance Plan to ensure that the SVE was functioned as designed. Based on the following field observation, it appears that the Owner and AKRF have not been complying with these operation and maintenance requirements for the SVE system as listed below, thereby delaying the cleanup. The tenants wish to point out that the failure of the Owner and AKRF to change out exhausted granular activated carbon in a timely manner has lead to “breakthrough” and the resulting emissions of potentially harmful concentrations of chlorinated solvents onto a public sidewalk, thereby further exposing sensitive individuals – a violation of law. In particular, the tenants note the following deficiencies in the operation and maintenance of the remedial system as required by the Cleanup Workplan: · & nbsp; Condition of SVE- The joints of the existing SVE piping/ductwork were held together with duct tape · The current SVE Cleanup system has insufficient power to remediate the chlorinated solvent release and simultaneously protect the building from vapor intrusion. · Insufficient Vacuum - No effect of the cleanup=2 0system was noted. No vacuum was observed (at a detection level of 0.1 inch of water gauge) in the wells around the source area in the nine soil vapor monitoring points through the floor slab and neighboring wells. · Discharge Point Exhaust- The cleanup system exhaust is angled downward toward the sidewalk on 142nd Street and the pedestrian breathing zone was discharging 1643 ppbv of volatile organics, in violation of the law. · Migration of Con taminants- On August 7, 2008, high concentration of soil vapors were detected (by both the Owners and the Tenant’s consultant), leaving the site and flowing to the North. Based on the concentrations in soil vapor, it is probable that DNAPL chlorinated solvents are present as well as contaminated groundwater. It appears that vapors and DNAPL may be migrating more northward beneath 142nd street towards the Armory occupied by a Gymnasium for Harlem and the Dept of Corrections. The tenants have tried to work both with the Owner and the NYSDEC to facilitate and expedite the cleanup of the Premises. However, after seven years, it is clear that insufficient progress is being made in remediation of this site, and that site workers and visitors remain exposed to indoor air concentrations of PCE and related VOC above acceptable DOH concentrations. The tenants regret that they are being prevented from implementing such changes through a time-sensitive Removal Action. In addition, the fail ure to make significant progress has prevented the site building from being utilized fully. By allowing the responsible party to implement a cheap, under-designed and ineffective remedial system for over a decade, the NYSDEC has enabled and allowed the Owner to reap substantial economic benefits if not a windfall. The failure to require the Owner to aggressively address the dangerous conditions at the Premises has turned the “polluter must pay” principle of the superfund program on its head. The tenants believe that the time for engaging in prolonged investigations while building occupants are being exposed to chemical vapors above NYSDOH guidelines must cease immediately. The NYSDEC must act aggressively to compel the Owner to remove the source of the solvent, contamination and implement emergency cleanup measures to prevent the continued migration of contaminated vapors into the Building, and towards the adjacent buildings and the ambient air.

We note that the Owner is now in violation20of New York State Bill (A.10952-B/S.8634) passed to force disclosure to tenants and the Harlem Armory along with other potentially impacted individuals by Owners with environmental problems.

John Bee
732 267 5722


Lawrence Schnapf, Esq.
Schulte, Roth and Zab el
919 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022
212 756 2205
Lawrence.schnapf@srz.com <mailto:Lawrence.schnapf@srz.com>

John Bee, Professional Geologist
Tapash Environmental Consultants
120 North Washington Street
Hammonton NJ 08037
732 267 5722
tapashb@aol.com <mailto:tapashb@aol.com>,

Joseph Karten
Owner of 2350 Fifth Avenue Corporation
(212)234 5000
icrcjk@aol.com <mailto:icrcjk@aol.com>

Rosalie K. Rosinko, Esq.
Senior Attorney-Division of Environmental Enforcement
Office of General Counsel  - NYSDEC
100 Hillside Avenue, Suite 1W
White Plains, NY  10603
(914) 428-2505 Ext 315

Mark McIntyre & Dan Walsh
Office of the Mayor
New York City
(212)788 3015
=0 A

Bryan Wong
Case Manager for 2350 Fifth Avenue
Long Island City, NY
(718)482 4900
yywong@gw.dec.state.ny.us <mailto:yywong@gw.dec.state.ny.us>

Dawn Hettricks
Case Manager for 2350 Fifth Avenue
518 402 7860
 deh02@health.state.ny.us <mailto:deh02@health.state.ny.us>

John Bee - Tapash

A Good Credit Score is 700 or Above. See yours in just 2 easy steps! <http://pr.atwola.com/promoclk/100000075x1215047751x1200957972/aol?redir=http://www.freecreditreport.com/pm/default.aspx?sc=668072%26hmpgID=62%26bcd=DecemailfooterNO62>


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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