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Apr 6, 2015 4:01 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town ZBA Wants Soil Samples For National Grid Project

Apr 7, 2015 2:21 PM

National Grid, the utility that delivers electricity to PSEG Long Island, wants to remove all of the fuel tanks, generators and associated structures from its property near Fort Pond in Montauk.

To do so, it must get approval from the East Hampton Town’s regulatory boards, including the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Last Tuesday, March 31, the application raised eyebrows at the public hearing about the possible toxicity of the soil at the site—the extent of which is unknown to the ZBA at this time.

“We’re kind of working blind before knowing what we’re going to find on the property and what we’re going to do with it,” said board member Cate Rogers.

If the plan gets approval, National Grid would remove three diesel generators, two above-ground fuel tanks, two buried fuel tanks and a fuel truck unloading pad, including concrete and foundation piles, plus three accessory buildings located along Second House/Industrial Road. It would then regrade the site with clean fill and quartz gravel. National Grid would also need area variances to install a new fence to keep people off the property.

Because the property is within the Harbor Protection, Coastal Erosion and Flood Hazard overlay districts, the State Department of Environmental Conservation has given the application approval, but with 17 conditions. They include the requirement that silt fencing be installed; that the equipment used during the deconstruction is kept at least 100 feet from the wetlands and stored with a tarp system; that any materials to be disposed of must be done at an up-island site; and that the DEC’s spills division must be called within two hours of contamination if a spill happens. The DEC and the county’s office of pollution control would oversee the work.

A T-Mobile wireless facility was recently installed at the site with town approval, but it will not be removed.

PSEG Long Island has shown interest in the National Grid property and may want to relocate its substation, which is immediately west of it, to the property once everything is removed and regraded. That action would have to go through a separate site plan approval, however.

PSEG installed new utility poles and a high-voltage transmission line last year, to the chagrin of some town residents, who say the poles have been treated with pentachlorophenol, also known as penta, which is a potentially toxic chemical. Lawmakers and town officials have since been taking PSEG to task on the issue.

National Grid had an environmental consultant, H2M, take soil samples at the Fort Pond site last year, which were supposed to be submitted to the town last summer, but they have not been, according to Laurie Wiltshire of Land Planning Services, who represents National Grid.

That raised alarm for some residents and environmental advocates, particularly Jeremy Samuelson, who is the executive director of Concerned Citizens of Montauk.

“You don’t have the information you need to be responsible for this whole application,” he told the ZBA. “This is potentially a brown field. We don’t even know what is in the soil. This is insane—and it was a mistake made 50 years ago, to put this critical piece of infrastructure on this piece of property, which is basically inches above the pond itself.”

Richard Janis, who lives in East Hampton Village, said DEC personnel should be on the site during the process and not wait until there are signs of contamination to call someone in. “The chance that the ground becomes contaminated is a no-brainer,” he said. “This land floods all the time. I don’t know why you would consider letting them continue operation on this site.”

Both Mr. Samuelson and Mr. Janis urged the board to consider the entire scope and not just the application in front of them.

Ms. Wiltshire said that although PSEG has expressed interest in moving to the site, there are no plans or deal in place. She said if there were, it would be a different and separate application, and it wouldn’t be accurate to base the board’s approval of the National Grid request on a different application.

“Removal would be immediate,” Ms. Wiltshire said if the application were granted. “National Grid wants to do that right now. They’re asking every day, ‘When can we start?’”

The application needs Planning Board site plan approval and Architectural Review Board approval in addition to the ZBA application.

Ms. Wiltshire said PSEG wouldn’t enter into a lease agreement to take the property over until it was clean, uncontaminated, approved and had a certificate of occupancy. She warned that replanting the property would likely result in difficulty for PSEG, if it wanted to move its equipment there, because it would then be encroaching on newly planted wetland species.

She noted that not only will the likely contaminated site be remedied, it would be taking the equipment out of an area that frequently floods. “This is really a win-win—you’re getting rid of a rundown, rusted-out facility that contains oil, contaminants, and all sorts of things that will be removed from Montauk,” she said. “It makes sense to me, if you’re generating electricity, that you get out of the water.”

Eric Shantz, a town planner, said the application is generally favorable, although it does have the potential to affect the watershed. Because of that, he recommended that if the ZBA doesn’t require the site to be planted, it should at least require 3/4-inch gravel to be used to reduce the amount of runoff.

Board Chairman John Whelan said no decision will be made until the board has H2M’s report on soil contaminants filed with the town. “The final approval would be contingent upon all remediation work,” he said. “All of this would have to be done to meet the permits.”

The ZBA closed the public hearing but left the record open to accept more documentation.

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By Woods woman (141), East hampton on Apr 6, 15 9:56 PM
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