National Grid is expected to wrap up decontamination operations of last week’s gas and oil spill by the end of this weekend, while authorities note that the problem may be worse than originally expected.
A test of the oil that gushed from an old National Grid pipe found a PCB level of 10,000 ppm, 200 times the acceptable level and high enough to be deemed hazardous waste, a Department of Environmental Conservation bulletin notes. The sample was taken directly from the oil and not from areas where it has mixed with Jamaica Bay’s protected waters, where the concentration would have been diluted.
PCBs are a cancer-causing toxin.
The unusually high PCB level is due to the fact that the defunct pipe held old oil and gas from a different regulatory era, not the cleaner compounds circulating in National Grid’s active pipes.
Samples have not yet been tested from Paerdegat Basin – the site of the spill – itself, but the state Department of Health will review data on contaminant levels in the water and sediment to determine long-term effects on fish and wildlife. The DEC will conduct an investigation once cleanup is completed.
National Grid is also working with DEC and the Coast Guard to clean any boats and structures that have been contaminated by the spill.
The company led a tour of the area for local politicians including City Councilman Lew Fidler, who is skeptical of the company’s evaluation of the damage.
“You never take the word of the person who did it for how bad (it is),” Fidler told the Daily News. “I know it’s not on the level of the Exxon-Mobil spill, but if it’s in your neighborhood it sure feels like it.”
The spill was reported to authorities at 1:30 a.m. on September 28. National Grid was capping the unused pipe by injecting it with a cement slurry, but something went wrong and between 800 and 1,400 gallons of natural gas condensate, compressor oil and turbine oil poured into Paerdegat Basin, part of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
National Grid and the Williams Company are currently seeking the government’s permission to build a natural gas pipeline underneath Jamaica Bay, with a metering station in Floyd Bennett Field’s hangars. The proposal has already received the green light from federal legislators and is currently under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
However, environmentalists say National Grid and Williams both have a history of accidents like this and the plan should be blocked in favor of protecting the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a national park.
The DEC and Coast Guard are advising the public to avoid recreational boating and fishing near Paerdegat Basin. They also say to avoid consuming fish and shellfish from the area’s waters.