Con Edison will pay $636G in settlement from East River oil spill

Oct3 Con Ed and Stuy Town

Con Ed’s East River substation south of Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As a result of a transformer malfunction at a Con Ed substation that caused 30,000 gallons of insulating oil to leak into the East River last May, the utility has entered into a settlement with the state, and will be paying $636,015 in damages and penalties.

As part of the settlement with the Department of Environmental Conservation for violating of New York State Environmental Conservation Law, Con Ed will also be required to continue the cleanup effort. The company will also be expected to assess the petroleum containment compliance at its 13 waterfront substations located throughout the boroughs.

The May 7, 2017 incident happened at the utility company’s Farragut Substation in Brooklyn, with the DEC and the U.S. Coast Guard quickly descending on the scene in Manhattan and Brooklyn to try to minimize the contamination of the river. While the substance, dielectric fluid is similar to mineral oil, as opposed to petroleum, it was still foreign to the East River. Following the leak, booms were placed in the water and absorbent pads were placed along the shorelines where much of the fluid had seeped.

The settlement payout will go towards funding for local environmental and restoration efforts. Out of the $636,015, $100,100 will go to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy for its water-based environmental education and kayaking programs, and $71,000 in natural resource damages to New York City Audubon for its Governors Island common terns nesting project. The remaining $464,915 will go to the New York State Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund (Oil Spill Fund), New York State Conservation Fund, and the State General Fund.

“At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York continues to prioritize improving and protecting the State’s waters,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The funding that came out of DEC’s enforcement action and penalty against Con Edison highlights the positive investments that can be made after an unfortunate event. Settlement investments through DEC’s Environmental Benefit Projects Policy will improve and restore the environment and natural resource damages funding serves to make the public whole.”

In response to the settlement, which the DEC announced on Wednesday, Allan Drury, a spokesperson for Con Ed said, “We are pleased to have resolved issues stemming from this incident and to support valuable environmental programs.”

Drury added that there was “no long-term impact” to the East River as a result of the spill. “The cleanup process mentioned in DEC’s announcement relates only to what is left of the spill on Con Ed’s substation property, not in the river,” he said.

The pretty flower that’s strangling Stuyvesant Cove Park

July19 Bindweed flower

Growth of the vine-sprouting weed has exploded in the warm weather. (Photos by Emily Curtis-Murphy)

By Sabina Mollot

Though the blooming of a large, stinky flower at the New York Botanical Garden has been getting all the attention lately, there’s another plant in this city that’s starting to sound even more sinister than the aforementioned corpse flower.

A white-petaled menace that grows on vines has been described by the gardeners at Stuyvesant Cove Park as “an invader from far-off lands and nothing short of pernicious.”

That would be the field bindweed (also known as Convolvulus arvensis), a trumpet-shaped flower that looks very similar to a morning glory and has been growing like what it actually is — a weed – in green spaces across New York City. Along with parks and gardens, the hardy plant has also been sprouting up on traffic medians and vacant lots.

Environmental education center Solar One, which is located at Stuyvesant Cove Park’s north end, sent neighbors an email about the bindweed on Monday, while also making a plea for help in keeping its beastly growth at bay.

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Solar 2 design released

This rendering, by Bjark Ingels Group (BIG), shows how the replacement building for Solar One will look, complete with a kayak launch accessible at Stuyvesant Cove Park.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Project architects have released renderings for Solar One’s new building that will be replacing the environmental organization’s original structure along the East River across from Peter Cooper Village within the next two years. The Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, presented the plan to Community Board 6’s land use and waterfront committee on January 22.

Although the project has been referred to as “Solar 2,” the new building will fully replace the organization’s original structure and the renderings show a “Solar One” sign on the building’s western face. According to the presentation, construction on Solar 2 is expected to be completed before the start of 2019 and construction on the additional flood protection in Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project, won’t begin until 2021 or 2022. The ESCR project includes a combination of berms and flood walls to protect the nearby neighborhoods from a possible flood event, and since Solar One’s building is expected to be operational before construction begins for the ESCR, that flood protection will be built around the new structure.

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DEC: Contaminant recovery wells won’t be intrusive

Nov9 DEC meeting cross and macneal.JPG

New York State Department of Conservation project managers Gardiner Cross and Doug MacNeal at a public meeting last Wednesday (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

With a contaminant recovery plan having been proposed for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, representatives from the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) addressed concerns of residents last week at a public meeting.

This included making assurances that wells the DEC and Con Edison plan to build in ST/PCV to collect the leftover chemicals so they can be disposed of wouldn’t be intrusive. Con Ed has been working with DEC on what’s been referred to as a “remediation” for the site, which was once home to a manufactured gas plant (MGP).

The DEC had actually directed Con Edison to begin remediation for this project back in 2011. However, DEC project manager Doug MacNeal said during the meeting that the process was delayed for the last five years because of the changes in ownership at ST/PCV.

MacNeal said that exact locations haven’t been determined for the wells yet, but Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was also at the meeting, which held at Beth Israel last Wednesday, said that he would push DEC to site them as far away as possible from doors, windows and playgrounds.

One possible location for the wells, of which there will be 10 in Peter Cooper and six in Stuy Town, would be inside the garages. Meeting attendees burst into laughter when geologist and DEC project manager Gardiner Cross said that this was because the garages already have good ventilation. However, MacNeal backed up his statement, explaining that to be up to code, a garage has to have a functional ventilation system. If it doesn’t, he added, residents should contact DEC.

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