By John Brandi
The proposed senior affordable housing project planned for 150 North St. is in limbo until the Rye City Council has received updated groundwater contamination readings from Westchester County, the council has also hinted additional testing may be required.
“[We have a] responsibility to make sure [construction] is appropriate,” Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, said. “[There] may need to be new testing.”
The problem lies with how many groundwater wells are on-site.
Despite regulatory agencies for the county and state claiming there are seven documented and tested wells, Norma Drummond, Westchester County Department of Planning deputy commissioner, said the total number is unclear since the regulatory oversight to North Street expanded and some wells couldn’t be located due to safety concerns for the inspectors.
Drummond said the seven wells referenced were all last tested in 2010.
Port Chester-based Lazz Development awaits the City Council’s approval to rezone the proposed site from a B-6 and B-1, general business and neighborhood business respectively, to an RA-5, “rural area” senior citizen’s apartment district.
Under the rezoning, the developer would build a 54-unit, age-restricted residential building. It would be limited to residents over the age of 55 and consist of 44 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units.
But concern persists among city officials there could have been a potential re-contamination of the property, which would likely call for remediation and additional delays of the project.
The North Street site is down gradient, or in the groundwater path, of two currently operating service stations, Valero Service Station at 300 Theodore Fremd Ave. and Banahan Brothers Service Station, at 310 Theodore Fremd Ave.
Consultant Matthew Carroll, a public engineer hired by the city to review the environmental data, said the cleanup of North Street and the two service stations was not done simultaneously.
Carroll is from Tenen Environmental, based in Manhattan.
North Street, site of the proposed senior housing development, and the two service station sites have been closed by the DEC, meaning the agency considers the remediation complete and has determined that, while there may remain residual contamination, those impacts don’t affect the use of the site, according to Carroll.
North Street closed in 2006, the two service stations in July 1 of this year.
Carroll said it has been seen, from testing, that contaminants have migrated back onto 150 North St. and the most recent samplings of groundwater, taken on March 25, 2014, have shown that. However, Carroll, with the DEC, said that the contaminant numbers will remediate over time.
The March groundwater samplings of two of the seven wells tested showed contaminations were still above New York State Department of Environmental Conservation standards for drinking water.
The safety standard is 1 part per billion.
The March samplings showed the groundwater was 27 ppb. Back in 2013, four out of seven well readings at the proposed location for the development showed groundwater contamination at approximately 1,700 ppb, with high concentrations of Benzene, one of the components in gasoline.
Carroll said the decreasing levels from 2013 to 2014 were a “good trend line.”
Soil samplings, from the site of the proposed development, taken in April 2014, closest to the adjacent Valero site, showed no signs of elevated concentrations of petroleum-related compounds, according to information provided by the city’s consultant.
Carroll said since most of the contaminated soil and groundwater was removed from 150 North St. and the source of contamination from the service stations, leaking underground storage tanks, show renewed contamination as unlikely.
Both the Westchester County Department of Health and the DEC deemed it appropriate to move forward with construction.
“The New York State DEC wouldn’t say there was an exposure issue,” Carroll said. “The DEC said the exposure is such that it’s appropriate for development.”
A motion to continue the public hearing was approved and will be discussed at the next council meeting on Sept. 10.
Councilwoman Laura Brett, a Republican, could not be reached for comment as of press time.