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.

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Explosion snarling sales, say Flatiron businesses

A masked police officer directs traffic on Broadway on Monday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While the so-called “hot zone” of businesses potentially impacted by the burst of an asbestos-covered steam pipe has shrunk since last Thursday, even businesses in Flatiron that were soon able to reopen say their customers have not returned.

Since the day of the burst, the streets directly surrounding the burst pipe site have remained barricaded off as Con Ed and various cities continue their investigation. Additionally, the streets have been teeming with police and other emergency responders, some wearing masks. The police have mainly been directing traffic to prevent errant photo-snapping pedestrians from getting too close to the work site.

Meanwhile, numerous buildings in the neighborhood remained empty of residents and workers as Con Ed conducted inspections for debris from the explosion.

On Monday, Town & Village spoke with employees at several businesses located on Broadway between 20th and 22nd Street about the lack of foot traffic.

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Impacted businesses advised to file claims with Con Edison or insurance

Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito speaks to building owners at a meeting held on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Flatiron businesses owners impacted by last week’s steam blast were told on Monday night that they may have some recourse for their losses in the form of insurance claims or claims with Con Edison.

Representatives from the utility, the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Health, Small Business Services and the Department of Environmental Protection offered updates on the ongoing investigation and clean-up effort during a meeting at the Clinton School in Union Square on Monday night.

Joseph Esposito, the commissioner for the Office of Emergency Management, said that as of Monday night, 17 buildings had been cleared for reoccupancy and the OEM announced that 16 additional buildings had been cleared by Wednesday morning, with 12 still needing to be cleaned and checked before they can be reoccupied.

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City putting Flatiron evacuees in hotels

Fifth Ave looking south on Monday

Con Ed crew at work at the explosion site (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As of Tuesday afternoon, the city said it is working with the Hotel Trade Council and Hotel Association of New York City to help displaced Flatiron residents, and that 10 families and one dog had so far been assisted.

Residents seeking a temporary room were advised to visit the reception center at the Clinton School at 10 East 15th Street, which has remained open. It’s open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. each day and according to the city, has seen 362 visitors since Thursday.

Hotel 17 in Stuyvesant Square, which now has an extended stay model and offers emergency housing, is one of the hotels housing evacuees, an employee there said. However, he said he couldn’t reveal how many individuals were staying there as a result of the blast.

Out of the 49 buildings evacuated for asbestos testing, 27 have been cleared for residents to return. Twelve contained some sort of debris that must be cleaned before they can be reoccupied.

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Air asbestos free, city says, but evacuated buildings still off limits

July26 Con Ed cleanup

A Con Ed crew cleaning up the street on Friday (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

The air is asbestos-free, the city said, after testing samples following the steam pipe explosion, on Friday evening. While some debris samples contained asbestos, it’s unlikely people exposed will become ill since “asbestos-related illnesses usually develop after many years of exposure,” according to an update provided by the mayor’s office and the Office of Emergency Management. The city also said irritation to the eyes, nose and throat from debris is possible, and recommends anyone with those symptoms contact doctor.

Meanwhile, the city is still keeping people out of the “hot zone” in Flatiron.

While the area continues to be cleaned up, the hot zone boundaries include:

  • Fifth Avenue from 19th Street to 22nd Street (midway down the block on 19th Street and most of 20th and 21st streets on the west side).
  • The entire block on East 20th and 21st Streets and midway down the block on East 19th Street.

Neighborhood residents whose building have been evacuated (49 buildings in total) are still displaced. Forty-four buildings had their facades visually expected. However, none were cleared for residents to return home as of Friday at 5 p.m. as testing for asbestos continues. At this time, the city doesn’t have a number as to how many buildings have been contaminated. Once a determination is made, the buildings’ facades will be washed. Con Ed has appointed outside vendors for this project.

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Con Ed hits gas line while drilling at 6 Peter Cooper Road

Con Ed works on the gas line behind 6 Peter Cooper Road on Tuesday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As part of drilling work associated with the plan to build at least 16 contaminant recovery wells in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, Con Ed hit a gas line on Monday, causing a shutdown at 6 Peter Cooper Road.

The shutdown of the gas line feeding the building was announced by StuyTown Property Services in the morning via a flier.

In it, SPS CEO Rick Hayduk warned that at another building in Stuyvesant Town, something similar happened last year and it was almost six weeks before the gas was restored.

“Because of regulations and safety protocols, restoring the gas is a complicated process that requires considerable cooperation and coordination by us, residents, contractor and city agencies,” said Hayduk. “Inasmuch as we would like to get gas to every apartment and the laundry room as quickly as possible, we cannot compromise resident health or safety.”

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Con Ed to begin work on gas plant remediation wells

The gas works and storage tanks of Con Ed’s predecessor company in 1890. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

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.”

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Letters to the editor, June 7

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Darth VDER is cheating NYers

Did you know that a recent decision by New York State energy regulators means that 32 percent of all New York City residents are not treated equally when it comes to accessing renewable energy as compared to other New York state residents? This affects all of us who do not pay our energy bills directly to Con Ed, including everyone living at Stuy Town, Waterside and most people living in large multifamily buildings, even though we pay the same amount as the other 68 percent of New York state residents to fund the state’s clean energy programs.

For most of us in New York City, remote renewable energy – also known as community distributed generation (CDG) – is the only option we have if we want to purchase clean renewables energy. Recently the Public Service Commission – a board of utility regulators appointed by Governor Cuomo – changed the rules for valuing clean energy generated at locations remote to where is consumed.

This new method, called VDER (Value of Distributed Energy Resources), applies to solar, wind and hydro-electric generation and is intended to succeed the current net meter value methodology. VDER differentiates between those of who pay their Con Ed bill directly to Con Ed, known as Direct Metered and those that do not, known as Master Metered or Master/Submetered, crediting Direct Metered residents almost 50 percent more value. It’s not fair.

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MGP recovery wells will be installed soon in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village

The gas works and storage tanks of Con Ed’s predecessor company in 1890 (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

Con Ed announced on Wednesday that there will be a public information session on June 7 from 6-8 p.m. in Stuyvesant Town on the ongoing Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) remediation project. NYSDEC and Con Edison will be available in the Election Room located at 451 East 14th Street to answer questions from the community.

As Town & Village has previously reported, as part of the MGP cleanup in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, a total of 16 “passive recovery wells” will be installed in specific locations around the property. The goal is to look for any remaining underground contaminants stemming from the days when the property was home to the gas works and storage tanks from Con Ed’s predecessor companies.

According to Con Ed, the work is expected to begin work the week of June 11, and drilling is expected to begin the week of June 18 and will probably last four weeks. Work days will be from 9-5 p.m.  Ten wells will be placed near East 20th Street and Avenue C and East 17th Street and Avenue C and six will be located near East 14th Street and Avenue C.

In an email, the company warned that there will be fenced off work areas surrounding wells and there may be periodic noise from two drills and possibly odors.

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East Village street co-named for men who died in explosion

Alfredo Locon, the brother of Moises Locon, speaks at the ceremony while flanked by local elected officials. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Two men killed in the gas explosion on Second Avenue at East 7th Street in 2015 have been memorialized with a street co-naming on the block.

The new signs up at the location designate East 7th Street between Second and Third Avenues as “Moises Locon Way” and the block of Second Avenue between East 7th and 8th Streets as “Nicholas Figueroa Way.”

On October 14, City Council Member Rosie Mendez held a ceremony to announce to unveil the sign, attended by family members of Locon and Figeuroa.

Moises Locon’s brother, Alfredo, was at the event and read a letter from his seven-year-old daughter, Stephanie.

“I miss you and my dad is so sad,” she said in her letter. “We have you in our heart.”

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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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Letters to the Editor, November 9

Nov9 Toon deBlahzzz

One man’s trash…

Dear Editor,

This is a reference to Brian Loesch’s letter to the newspaper (“Enough from the squirrels’ PR people,” T&V, Oct. 26).

His letter is very full of nonsense. All over New York City, squirrels seek food in garbage cans. This does not only occur in Stuy Town. Where are the squirrels supposed to go – to McDonald’s? If Mr. Loesch does not like it here, he can move out of the complex and let some poor family move in. I hope that he does no harm to the squirrels.

Best,

Maureen Kaine

Thanks for the wake-up call

Not sure what is going on but at this time of the night (3 a.m.). I am hearing intermittent back-up alarms. When I get up all I can see from my home is a flashing light on the backhoe in the construction site on Avenue C and East 13th street. Is the guard practicing operating it at this time of night?

Last night Con Ed had a delivery at 4 in the morning. With all of the structures they have built on the south side of the street, it is difficult for these tankers to maneuver and the back and forth of their trying to get into the docks is quite annoying at that time of the night.

Is it really necessary for such deliveries at that time?

Does this neighborhood need to be continuously subjected to this noise pollution?

Sherman Sussman, ST

 

UPDATED: Con Ed recommends putting wells in ST/PCV to recover contaminants from former gas plant

Mar13 Con Ed

The gas works and storage tanks of Con Ed’s predecessor company in 1890. (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

UPDATE: Con Ed has changed the date and venue of the upcoming meeting. It will be on Wednesday, November 1 at 7 p.m. at Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Podell Auditorium in the Bernstein Building, 10 Perlman Place, one block west of First Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets, according to an email sent to neighbors from the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association.

By Sabina Mollot

As most people who live in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village know, the property is the site of the former Gashouse District, named for the Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) stations and facilities run by Con Ed and its predecessor companies.

In recent years, the utility has been conducting an investigation in and around ST/PCV, looking for contaminants in the ground, groundwater and air. The investigation is being coordinated with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the State Department of Health.

According to the study’s findings from investigations in 2006 and 2008, contaminants were found, but located deep in the ground (at least five feet) with most even lower, and in groundwater beneath the site, though that water is not used for drinking. MGP residential levels tested in the air indoors were found to be typical. Outdoor air samples collected were also found to be normal for an urban area. Because of this, Con Ed said in an advisory this week that it’s unlikely people will come into contact with these contaminants, though air monitoring will continue.

Still, the company is now proposing a “remediation” (cleanup) plan for the site that involves, among other things, the placement of wells.

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Hoylman: Restaurants are taking the heat for delayed gas service

Frank’s Trattoria went without gas for eight weeks earlier this year following a gas leak at a nearby building. It is still in business, though others that have gone through lengthy periods without gas were less fortunate. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this year, Frank’s Trattoria, a pizzeria and restaurant across from Peter Cooper Village, went eight weeks without gas to cook with following a gas leak at a neighboring building. The roughly two months spent without gas was due to delays in getting inspections from Con Ed as well as getting all the necessary paperwork from Department of Buildings. The owners at the time told Town & Village they were trying to stay afloat by cooking what menu items they could using electric stoves they purchased. However, they still lost a lot of business since they couldn’t make pizza that way and because the portable stoves took longer to cook with, some customers would choose not to wait.

The owners told us they didn’t even know how much they lost, but it’s possible the amount was $140,000.

Apparently, this is the average loss to Manhattan businesses that had the same problem in recent years, who also had an average wait of 68 days for the gas to go back on. Those figures are the result of a study conducted by the office of state Senator Brad Hoylman, with owners of businesses being interviewed through a survey.

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Con Ed crew at work on East 14th Street in wee hours on Tuesday

Con Ed trucks on East 14th Street (Photo by Sherman Sussman)

By Sabina Mollot

With construction a constant in Manhattan, some residents have the misfortune of hearing trucks back up, pile drivers pound and re-directed motorists curse as the soundtracks to their day. However, one resident of Stuyvesant Town, who lives down the street from the Extell development site and across the street from Con Ed, reached out to us after being woken up at 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday due to work crews on the street.

According to Sherman Sussman, it was at that time that he saw a crew in Con Ed trucks doing non-emergency work in front of 635 East 14th Street. He knew it was non-emergency work after heading downstairs and speaking with the foreman. There were also other trucks idling for over 15 minutes by then, he told us.

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