At a Community Education Council (CEC) meeting last Tuesday, Holden said it was “reprehensible” and “borderline criminal” that a construction company, CAC Industries, dumped toxic soil one block from PS/IS 128.
The company uses the site at 69th Street and Juniper Valley Boulevard as a staging area for their massive sewer project on 74th Street.
“They knew it was laced with lead and they brought it across from a school,” Holden said. “I want this waste transfer site out of there. It shouldn’t be near a school.”
The dilemma began when the sewer project, in its finishing stages, was halted last December. When Holden questioned the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) why it stopped, officials told the councilman it was because they found contaminated soil on premise.
According to Holden, when the contractor tried to take the soil “to a dump,” it was turned away after tests showed it contained high levels of lead. CAC Industries then took the soil back to the staging area, where it remained for several months.
DDC officials told the councilman the project would have to be rebid to deal with the contaminated soil.
“All these red flags went up for me,” Holden said.
When District 24 Superintendent Madeline Taub-Chan caught wind of what happened, she immediately requested Department of Education (DOE) officials test the site. Taub-Chan told parents at the CEC 24 meeting that the annex, first and second floors were tested for lead, and that the results “came back fine.”
CEC 24 co-president Dmytro Fedkowskyj, a parent at PS/IS 128, said officials should not limit the number of tests conducted, including at the construction area where a new addition for the school is being built. Taub-Chan said she would be open for more testing.
That weekend, Holden got on the phone with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who dispatched a team to look at the situation. Holden said he wants school officials to test lead levels in students and in the water.
“You should be concerned, but let’s not panic,” he said.
As for the contaminated site, Holden said DDC still wants to use the location as a staging area for the project. He said construction officials will take away the mound of soil by the following week.
But in calling for an investigation into the incident, Holden said the project should be taken away from CAC Industries, a firm that the city has contracted to do other sewer projects in Queens.
“Rules must have been broken,” he said.
In a statement, City Hall spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said city officials will remove the soil within the next week.
“This soil has been tested and does not pose a hazard to students, school staff or community residents,” Lapeyrolerie said. “We are safely removing the soil within the next week out of an abundance of caution.”