Since March of this year, the Meeker Avenue Plume has been designated as a Superfund priority by the Environmental Protection Agency, a motion that was proposed back in 2021. Now, the agency is encouraging community involvement as they begin the process of collecting residential samples to assess the level of contamination and subsequent health impacts on those living and working within the site and surrounding areas.
According to the EPA, contaminants of concern include chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs) like tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), cis-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE), and vinyl chloride. These contaminants are most likely to impact basements or ground levels and sampling has been reiterated as the most effective method for assessing and mitigating contaminant levels through further steps like additional monitoring, sealing cracks, or installing equipment preventing vapors from entering living spaces.
While the act of outreach — on properties chosen based on data provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation — for consent to access to basements and first floors to test indoor air and soil levels started as recently as October, discussions about community involvement began with the prioritization of the site.
“In March, EPA began researching the social and demographic makeup of the community to ensure everyone was included in the cleanup process,” EPA Remedial Project Manager John Brennan explained in a December 1 workshop about the Superfund site.
As of now, EPA is conducting interviews as they work to create a community advisory group with a neutral facilitator.
“The goal is to understand concerns and work to advocate and strengthen meaningful communication during the cleanup process,” EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Samuel Donette said.
During the same December 1 meeting, neighbors voiced their concerns about health impacts and hopes for transparency throughout the remediation, which many feel has been lacking in other local projects (including outreach to neighbors who may not have access to technology). Not without acknowledgment was the fact that P.S. 110 and McGolrick Park border the 45-block site which, according to EPA and site Project Manager Stephanie Vaughn, could potentially change in size and scope depending on the results of sampling.
The community involvement plan, described by Samuel as a backbone, will be utilized by the site team when identifying appropriate activities or effectively engaging neighbors in the cleanup process and addressing their concerns. The EPA also plans to implement involvement tools, including a Technical Assistance Needs Assessment (identifying opportunities for support in understanding technical information ), potential Technical Assistance Grant (funding opportunity allowing community groups to contract an independent technical advisor), and Technical Assistance Services for Communities (an EPA program providing contractors to help better explain agency policies and action in plain language.)
Moving ahead, EPA plans to publish the community involvement plan in January 2023 to “highlight community perspectives and cite specific strategies for meaningful community involvement during site cleanup” according to Brennan.
To sign up for the site’s mailing list or connect further about community involvement, reach out to Samuel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Site documents can be accessed here or in person at Greenpoint Library (107 Norman Ave) and EPA’s Superfund Records Center in Manhattan (290 Broadway, 18th Floor).