RED HOOK – Delayed once again due to the 35-day federal government shutdown which prohibited EPA employees from reporting to work, cleanup plans to remove lead from the Red Hook ball fields are back on track, with crews starting work on the site last week.
The EPA and NYC Department of Parks and Recreation held a meeting Monday evening at the Red Hook Recreation Center (155 Bay Street), just across from the street from the ball and soccer fields, to update the community on the project.
Under EPA oversight, NYC Parks has begun prep work on Phase 1—the remediation of Ball Fields 5-8 and 9. “They are mobilizing on the site,” said Eric Mattes of NYC Parks, noting that the contractor has begun removing some of the smaller trees from the site, filling in the tree pits devoid of trees, and putting up signage. In the coming weeks, park furniture and larger trees will be removed along Bay, Hicks, and Henry Streets; a construction fence will be installed around the perimeter of the site; a stabilized construction entrance will be installed on Bay Street; and construction trailers will be placed along Bay and Hicks Street.
The EPA’s Daniel Gaughan explained the cleanup plans. “We’re going to take six inches of soil off the top of the whole site. They’re going to grade it out, level it all up, and they’ll bring in a foot of clean fill on top of that.” A demarcation layer (visual barrier) will be placed between the contaminated soil and the 12 inches of clean fill and a drainage layer will be installed above that. AstroTurf will cover the surface of all the ball fields.
To address community concerns about potential flooding, the elevation of the fields will be raised above flood elevation as established by FEMA. A bioswale—planted areas along the fields to collect stormwater runoff from the fields—will also be installed to help prevent flooding.
New trees, fencing, and walkways will be reinstalled and other upgrades will be made after the cleanup is complete.
Work on Ball Fields 5-8 is expected to take at least 18 months. Despite the delay caused by the government shutdown, the expected Spring 2020 completion reportedly remains on schedule.
Ball Field 9 currently remains open because the lead contamination there is deep enough below the surface to deem it safe enough to remain in use. Cleanup for Field 9 is scheduled to kickoff between 2020 and 2021 however work on Ball Fields 5-8 may overlap with this, potentially causing all of these fields to be simultaneously closed to the public for a period.
The contaminated soil will be trucked offsite to approved waste disposal facilities, according to Mattes. Approximately 4,900 cubic yards of contaminated material will be removed from the park and approximately 10,900 cubic yards of clean fill will replace it, he noted. Vehicles carting the polluted soil will be required to travel along the commercial districts (Bay Street, Smith Street, and Court Street), as opposed to residential streets, to reach the highway, Mattes said.
In an effort to prevent dust on the construction site from spreading, construction crews will frequently spray exposed areas with water to contain the dust as well as use soil tarps and dust curtains along the perimeter of the site. Summaries monitoring the dust levels during soil disturbances will be available weekly at www.nycgovparks.org/about/whats-happening/red-hook-park-remediation and at the Red Hook Library.
Another safety measure includes temporarily relocating the bus stop on the corner of Lorraine and Hicks across the street for the duration of construction. The bus stop will be moved to the other side of Hicks Street this week, according to a NYC Parks representative following Monday’s meeting.
Looking ahead, Phase 2: Ball Field 9 and Soccer Field 2 is currently in the procurement phase and will be awarded to a contractor soon, Mattes noted. Phase 2 construction is scheduled to begin Fall 2019, with completion expected by Spring 2021.
“We found that the Henry Street Basin bulkhead is in very poor condition, so we’re in the process of completing contract documents to reconstruct that bulkhead,” Mattes added. Phase 2A: Henry Street Basin Bulkhead & Plaza/Picnic Area is not a part of EPA’s Consent Order so NYC Parks will conduct this work under a separate contract.
The largest phase of the cleanup project, Phase 3: Ball Fields 1-4, Soccer Fields 3-5, and the Track, is currently in the design phase which should be completed in the coming months. All the ball fields, soccer fields, handball courts, and the running track will be reconstructed and receive new pavements or artificial turf. Phase 3 is scheduled to be completed in Fall 2021. The final phase of the project, Phase 4: Soccer Fields 1 and 6, is expected to be completed in Spring 2023.
Following the presentation, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation’s Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Marty Maher assured some community members who expressed concerns about the possibility of polluted materials penetrating the cap in the event of a flood or a surge.
“I just want to make clear that what we’re doing is we’re raising this, we’re containing this, we’re capping this,” Maher said. “So you have the retaining walls on the side, you have the bioswales for drainage…you have the demarcation layer, you have the clean fill on top. Plus any synthetic turf system has a gravel draining system underneath it,” he explained, noting that flooding would not cause contaminants to rise to the surface, but would move it through the soil, “but we’ll get an engineering response to that,” he promised.
The Red Hook ball fields are located on the site of the former Columbia Smelting and Refining Works, a secondary lead smelter that produced various types of metals containing high levels of lead concentrations. The facility was demolished by 1940 and the ball fields were constructed in its place shortly after.
EPA conducted an assessment of the site, including soil samples in 2014 and 2015, and found high lead concentrations at Ball Fields 5-8 requiring the cleanup of the entire block. Learn more about the history of the site here.
EPA and NYC Parks will continue to host regular meetings to update locals about the progress of the cleanup of Ball Fields 5-9. The EPA has also set up an Information Repository at the Red Hook Library.
Go to www.epa.gov/superfund/columbia-smelting for more information or email Natalie Loney at email@example.com with any questions about the project.