By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents appeared more concerned about communication regarding Con Edison’s plan to dispose of toxic waste left behind from the property’s days as a manufactured gas plant than about the project itself during an information session hosted in Stuy Town last Thursday evening.
“We understand that it has to be done,” resident Sherry Kirschenbaum said. “Rick (Hayduk, the property’s general manager) said they will be working with Con Edison throughout the project. Our concerns were allayed.”
Con Ed expects the wells to remain in place for the foreseeable future but representatives said the most disruptive part of the project will be the drilling.
“We’ll be starting the drilling (during the day) once people are already at work and at school and the sonic drill rake we use is more of a hum,” Con Edison engineer Ken Kaiser said. “If there are complaints about noise, we could use some kind of baffling to muffle the sound.”
Once the wells are installed, they will be checked within two weeks of being placed and then quarterly or semi-annually based on how much material they collect. Kaiser said that the goal of the project is to collect coal tar left over from the gas plant and prevent it from migrating into the East River.
According to Kaiser, exposure of the material will not be dangerous to residents and that the tar, which is a byproduct of burning coal, has even been used in beauty products like dandruff shampoo and skincare treatments. But he said that in 2002, the state started a voluntary clean-up program, prompting Con Ed to begin identifying the contamination left from the old plants and address the problem.
“When they knocked these structures down, they didn’t think about these things,” Kaiser said of the ground contamination. “They weren’t as careful back then.”
Kaiser also pointed out that there are actually already Con Edison wells on the property that have been in place for at least 10 years, which were installed at the beginning of the clean-up program to monitor the contamination, but they are too small (about two inches across) to extract any of the waste, hence the need for the bigger wells. Kaiser noted that the smaller wells to monitor the waste are how Con Ed was able to calculate the best places for the recovery wells.
Con Edison has announced 16 wells will be built. However, Department of Environmental Conservation project manager Doug MacNeal said on Monday that one additional well will likely be needed near 2 Peter Cooper Road and another two will likely be needed in one of the garages near 635 East 14th Street. The locations haven’t yet been approved by the DEC. If approved, the two additional Stuyvesant Town wells will be the only wells on the property located inside garages.
“We might end up not even finishing wells if it turns out there aren’t any impacts,” MacNeal added. “But there’s just no way to know until the drilling starts. We hope that doesn’t happen because it’s a waste of time for everyone, but it’s not unheard of.”
Four of the six wells in Stuyvesant Town will be near the Avenue C Loop, roughly bordered by 285 Avenue C, 16 Stuyvesant Oval and 628 East 20th Street. The other two wells will be along East 14th Street between Avenues B and C near 635 East 14th Street.
The 10 wells planned for Peter Cooper Village are also mostly concentrated on the eastern end of the property, near 541 East 20th Street, 530 East 23rd Street, and 5, 6 and 7 Peter Cooper Road.
STPCV Tenants Association president Susan Steinberg said she was worried about interference with the L train construction but was told that the two projects won’t overlap because the only wells Con Edison needs to put in near East 14th Street will be farther east.
“It doesn’t seem particularly onerous,” Steinberg added. “Everyone would rather know what’s there.”