Elevated levels of contaminants were found recently at the Garvies Point waterfront construction site — the future home of a 28-acre, $1 billion luxury residential and shopping community. They were discovered at the Superfund site after a French drain system was installed there in May.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation required additional testing of the drainage system after it was added to prevent groundwater from seeping into the construction site.
In late August, the Bohemia-based environmental firm P.W. Grosser Consulting Inc., working on behalf of project developer RXR Realty, reported that six samples tested between May 26, and June 8 indicated levels of manganese, tetrachloroethylene also known as PCE and total dissolved solids above allowable limits. It was determined that the elevated PCE levels were attributable to an off-site source.
The DEC shut down the drainage system after the contaminants were found in June. After modifications were made, the DEC allowed the French drain to be reconnected last month.
After additional testing of the system on Sept. 21, the DEC found slightly elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, which led officials to shut it down again.
As part of a separate evaluation, a stormwater runoff drain with an outfall pipe to Glen Cove Creek was tested. The DEC said that contaminants including chlorinated volatile organic compounds, various metals, total suspended solids and PCBs were found.
The DEC determined that contaminated groundwater was seeping into the site’s stormwater runoff system, and the agency directed the drain to be capped on July 21. RXR will replace the stormwater runoff system as part of the project.
“There’s been contaminated groundwater at this site for decades,” said Michael Zarin, an attorney for the City of Glen Cove assigned to the Garvies Point project. He noted that as part of the standard remediation process, there is usually residual contamination left behind. To contain it, the developers cap the ground with clean soil and cement.
“The entire stormwater system is being replaced with new systems that will dramatically clean up this area,” Zarin said, “and ensure that there is no contamination, and ensure that there is no stormwater going into the creek,” Zarin said.
RXR Realty Garvies Point project manager Frank Haftel said that company officials had expected to find contamination. “In addition to having done an extensive cleanup process, we have requirements to continue testing while we are under construction, so that if there are any levels of materials that don’t agree with the standards . . . then we are required to deal with those materials,” Haftel explained. “There is nothing unusual here. It’s because we’re following the process, and it’s a very stringent process.”
Garvies Point opponents, however, saw the contamination differently. Amy Marion, an attorney from Garden City-based Barket Marion Epstein Kearon, had represented residents from Glen Cove, Sea Cliff and surrounding areas in a lawsuit against the City of Glen Cove and RXR, calling for a new environmental study, which they lost. She is representing them in their appeal.
“Contaminants aren’t helpful for anybody. That’s what we’re fighting against in our lawsuit,” Marion said. “I think it’s proof of what we’ve been arguing, that a SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] review is necessary.”
Marion also noted that long-term groundwater discharges were not addressed in the plan.
According to state officials, the “DEC will continue to hold the developers accountable for quickly addressing any additional contamination that is found at the site, and for the proper disposal of all removed contamination at approved facilities. DEC will use all legal and regulatory tools available should the developer fail to comply.”
The mixed-use project, which will include 1,110 residential units, a marina, parks and other amenities, is being built on the site of the former LI Tungsten Corp.
“As long as they can prove that they have cleaned up the creek and the land is OK, then I would approve it,” said Dr. Helen Green, a Glen Cove resident of 62 years. “I would like to see Glen Cove have new communities and change the town a little bit.”