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A $10 million joint-government agency project to clean up a contaminated Jamaica, NY, site will be the first step in the process of reopening capped area wells to supplement the local drinking water supply.
Chris Ward, commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Protection, and Erin Crotty, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, announced plans for engineers to begin designing the cleanup of the former West Side Corp. lot at 107-10 180th St.
During the 1970s and 1980s, pumping stations in the area, formerly owned by the Jamaica Water Supply Co., were closed when traces of a hazardous dry cleaning chemical were found in wells near the site.
The 41/2-acre parcel, now used by Atlantic Express Transportation Group Inc. as a school bus parking lot, was used for storing dry cleaning chemicals between 1969 and 1992, and researchers believe that perchloroethylene, often called perc, spilled from storage tanks at the lot and contaminated the soil and water beneath.
The DEC wasn't notified about the problem until 1995, and the lot wasn't listed as a hazardous site until 1997.
The DEP wants to reopen about 36 area pumping stations to supplement the city's drinking water supply. But to ensure the community safe drinking water, the DEC will remedy soil and groundwater around the polluted site.
When the cleanup of the controversial site was first discussed more than two years ago, government leaders said no money was available in the state Superfund budget for a remediation project.
With the threat of drought and increases in water use throughout the city, Ward said the Jamaica contamination blocked the agency's need to meet future demands for the city's drinking water needs.
"The problem for us was one, it was creating water anxieties for us in Queens, and two, it was jeopardizing the water quality in Queens," Ward said.
Crotty said the bidding process for a cleanup contractor will begin in January. It could take years for the cleanup and for some of the wells to be back online. Design engineers for the DEC will develop project plans, with the DEP footing the bill.
"The lion's share is that the city will fund the entire project," Ward said.
The project will bring some relief to people in the community who for decades have questioned the quality of water that flows from their taps.
Area politicians, such as state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), have argued on behalf of homeowners that the former West Side Corp. site is one of the state's most polluted.
"This is one of those meetings that make you feel good about being an elected official when you start to see things come together and people working together," Smith said at the announcement.