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Time ticks down - Last fight for waste station foes

If they want to keep a medical waste transfer station out of Canarsie, area residents are going to have to make a lot of noise, and do it quickly.

Indeed, with the public comment period on the siting of the facility at 100-02 Farragut Road scheduled to end September 19, activists are scrambling to put together a public protest that will show the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that the community is overwhelmingly opposed to the siting, near private homes and food processing plants, and just a stone’s throw from the shopping strip along Rockaway Parkway.

The facility has been proposed by CMW Industries, which currently runs an ambulette service out of the site.

At a planning meeting held at the Hebrew Educational Society, 9502 Seaview Avenue, opponents of the facility decided to hold both a town hall and a public protest to draw attention to their concerns. The date and location of the events had not been determined by press time. For information, call City Councilmember Charles Barron’s office at 718-649-9495.

If enough people make their worries known, DEC will agree to hold a public hearing at which they can hear testimony on the issue, said Joy Simmons, Barron’s legislative director.

An agency representative had told her, Simmons noted, that, “It depends on how much response they get from the community, whether they hold a public hearing. That’s not good enough for us. We want to make sure they get an overwhelming response.”

Last month, DEC issued a notice that the application to operate the facility was complete. The notice included wording indicating that the project, “will not have a significant impact on the environment.”

“DEC doesn’t have any particular objections at this point,” noted Simmons. Yet, the location, “Is right in the heart of the residential community,” she said.

Other issues include the fact that it is, in the words of South Canarsie Civic Association (SCCA) Vice President Steven Kaye, “On a narrow, dead-end street, where there’s a lot of double parking.”

As much as 15 tons of regulated medical waste could be sent to the facility each day, according to DEC, which also says that it could handle “an undefined quantity of conditionally exempt hazardous waste.”

The notice says that among the substances that could be collected and stored are “formalin, formaldehyde and formaldehyde solutions, xylene, alcohol, mercury and waste mercury.”

A few months ago, when CMW held a meeting on the facility that was required as part of the application process, those who attended, “Said no way, this is not right,” Simmons recalled.

“Last time, I asked, what is in the bags?” remarked Mercedes Narcisse, president of the Avenue L Merchants Association. “How can you say it’s not dangerous to my health? He couldn’t answer.”

There’s a nursing home nearby, added Sylvia Whiteside, president of the Bayview Houses Tenants Association. “You certainly don’t want a medical waste transfer station put a couple of blocks from where people are seriously ill,” she stressed.

There may be pathogens within the medical waste that could become airborne under certain circumstances, noted Melvin Faulkner, Barron’s senior citizen liaison. “One accident, and Canarsie’s finished,” he warned.

If the plan goes through, CMW, which is a licensed regulated medical waste transporter, would use approximately 1,500 square feet of the building as a regulated medical waste transfer station. This would be the first such facility in Brooklyn. Currently, CMW transports medical waste to a facility in the Bronx.

Under this arrangement, medical waste brought to the property in cargo vans or box trucks would be stored in a 40-foot tractor-trailer container, which would be taken away when filled. “The on-site storage of hazardous waste is limited to less than ten days,” according to DEC. The facility would be open, according to DEC, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“This is precedent setting,” stressed Mary Anne Sallustro, SCCA’s president, citing potential impact on area home values as well as people’s health. “There are going to be trucks coming from all over the city to the depot, and not only trucks, but all the vans.”

“If it’s needed, this would be fine to put in an industrial park,” added Kaye. “That’s where it belongs.”

At the public hearing held as part of the DEC permitting process, Gershon Klein, CMW’s owner, said, “It’s not impacting Canarsie. We’re not treating waste. It’s no different than if we had a grocery store and were getting boxes. I don’t believe it’s dangerous. It may be dangerous, but not any more dangerous than Brookdale Hospital.”

The site is zoned C8-1, a designation that the Department of City Planning’s Zoning Handbook says “provide(s) for automotive and other heavy commercial services,” with “typical uses” including many automotive facilities, such as car repair shops, gas stations and car washes. Indeed, there is a question as to whether a medical waste transfer station might more appropriately be placed in a manufacturing district.

Housing begins a block away on East 99th Street, though the east side of that street, too, is zoned C8-1.However, cross the street and the residential zone (R-4) begins, along both East 99th Street and Farragut Road.

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