Congresswoman Kathleen Rice announced new progress in the effort to redevelop the vacant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site located at the former Jackson Steel manufacturing plant in the Mineola last week. Rice held a meeting on Friday, May 22 with federal, state and local officials to discuss the status of the site, which had been contaminated by degreasing chemicals that posed a significant threat to public health.
“After a very productive meeting, it’s clear that all the interested parties now have the information they need to reach an agreement on how best to redevelop the former Jackson Steel plant,” said Rice. “I’ll continue to work with state, county and village officials to get this long-dormant property back on the tax rolls.”
Rice met with local mayors and leaders in her congressional district after her election in November. After huddling with Mayor Scott Strauss, the two identified the 43,000 square-foot building as a hot-button issue that needed addressing.
“The Jackson Steel Superfund site has been off the tax rolls for far too long now,” said Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss. “I thank Congresswoman Rice for taking the lead and putting together a very productive meeting with all interested parties, and I’m encouraged to see all levels of government commit to working together to ensure a safe future for a site that will greatly benefit our community.”
EPA officials stated that they have completed remediation of the site and that the agency is committed to working with whoever buys the property to ensure that vapor levels remain in accordance with standards set by the EPA, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health. Nassau County and village officials also expressed their commitment to work together to reach a settlement and determine the best plan for future use of the property.
In August 2014, the Mineola Village Board approved a $7,332 plan to install a chain link fence along the perimeter of the superfund site at 435 First St. The plan also called for a 18-foot double swing gate.
“We know what the current status is and what the next step is,” Mineola Village Clerk Scalero said. “It’s a big piece of land.”
According to a report from the EPA, the site functioned as a “roll form metal shapes” manufacturing facility from 1970-1991. Degreasers, including tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), and 1,1,1-trichloroethane, were used at the facility until March 1985.
Sludge from degreasing equipment was stored in drums, the documents said. During a 1981 inspection of the facility by the Nassau County Department of Health, improper spill control at the waste storage area was reported.
The EPA report said in 2002, elevated PCE levels were detected in a billiards hall and daycare center near the site. The EPA’s emergency response team installed vacuum extraction systems under the buildings to prevent any contaminants from entering the structures in case the soil and ground water under the buildings were the source.
An investigation in May 2003 determined PCE and TCE detected in the indoor air of the former daycare center could be, at least partly, attributed to vapor intrusion from the soil underneath the building.
After additional investigations in 2004 and 2005, the EPA provided $2.85 million to perform treatability studies and a groundwater investigation work related to the lower aquifer, the report said. The EPA allocated an additional $1 million to commence remedial action.
With superfund sites, the federal government seizes control of the property for the duration of the cleanup before returning the land to the previous owner. The EPA usually seeks to recover some costs for the revamp from the past owner.
Jackson Steel, a sole proprietor, no longer exists. Forensic accounts for the EPA say they couldn’t determine who owns the property.
If anyone purchases the property, they’d also foot the bill on unsettled tax liens on the land. Nassau County and Mineola has $3 million and $1 million in tax liens against the property, respectively. Either municipality could relinquish its claim and let the other take ownership of the land, or one could sell its tax claim.
The EPA needs to release a site-management plan before pursuing with remediation work at the location. The property has been deemed safe, but a monitoring plan needs to be implemented before the parcel can be bought.
“There’s no quick answer,” Scalero said. “Between the time the property was first declared [a superfund site 15 years ago] when they first stared the cleanup to now when it’s finished, it’s a long process.”
In addition to Rep. Rice, Strauss, Scalero and representatives from the EPA, officials who participated in the meeting include New York State Senator Jack Martins, Nassau County Chief Real Estate Negotiator and Special Counsel Kevin Walsh, Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter and Village of Mineola Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira.
“Through the EPA’s cleanup and remediation, the community has taken a positive step in reversing the environmental devastation caused through decades of industrial abuse, protecting our community’s health and ensuring that our drinking water is preserved,” Martins said.