Monday, January 22, 2007

Report Says Gowanus Whole Foods Site Not "Significant Threat" to Safety

2007_01_Gowanus Whole Foods Rendering

The environmentally-challenged site in Gowanus at Third Avenue and Third Street where Whole Foods is building a huge store--most of which will be below ground--is not a "significant threat to public health or the environment." A draft report by the Department of Environmental Conservation reports that some pollutants including benzene, PCBs and metal cadmium will remain on the site after the cleanup, but that levels at the site will be within acceptable limits. The cleanup plan, which is reported in the Daily News, calls for removal of polluted soil as deep as 10 feet below the surface; more than 11,000 square feet of tainted dirt have already been removed.

The story goes on to note:
The cleanup plan calls for a protective membrane around the foundation to prevent benzene vapors in nearby ground water from seeping into the store. Extra "clean fill" will be placed under a proposed public promenade along the basin.

But some have raised eyebrows about the project's design and the proposed cleanup.

"We want to be really sure that it's cleaned up and that it will be safe," said Lydia Denworth, president of the Park Slope Civic Council, a group that met with the developer recently. "There are more questions that need to get answered."

The plan is open to public comment until Jan. 25. One group, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, intends to file its opposition to the planned store.

"It's an environmentally risky area, and they do the worst thing they can do, which is to bury the store underground," said group member Marlene Donnelly, who said the below-ground space was chosen to skirt zoning rules.
Whole Foods was able to build space nearly six times what zoning would allow on the site by building underground.

Meanwhile, Verizon executives say that any toxic benzene that has been detected on the Whole Foods site and elsewhere around Third Avenue and Third Street isn't coming from their property. Whole Foods execs say the source of the benzene isn't on their property either. Where the underground benzene is coming from in Gowanus remains a mystery.

Related Posts:
The Ground Beneath Gowanus, Whole Foods Edition
Whole Foods Execs Say Toxic Under Control

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