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TN methane concerns spark explosive town hall meeting

Bronx Times

Skeptical Throggs Neck residents exploded with questions for officials over fears of explosive methane leaking into their neighborhood from a landfill under Ferry Point Park.

But officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, city Parks Department and FDNY at a town hall meeting tried mightily to dispel fears, winning some but not all.

“Is there a level of methane at the golf course that we should be concerned about?” was the big question asked by Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who led the packed meeting Monday evening, Oct. 1 at Throggs Neck Houses, across from the site.

“The answer is no,” said Venetia Lannen with the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

On top of regular testing, an underground vent trench built a decade ago around the golf course now under construction there naturally blocks methane gas from seeping into the community, said Lannen.

She assured residents that the methane gas found at a number of the 68 testing wells scattered next to the site pose no threat, despite published reports.

Officials admitted there were high methane readings outside the park, but the amounts were inconsistent from day to day.

The occasional high levels detected in some of the wells posed no danger since the gas was not under pressure, key to its combustion.

Independent monitors hired by the city Parks Department have been monitoring methane gas outside the golf course bi-weekly for years, according to Lannen, with the data turned over to the DEC for evaluation.

But the DEC’s Samsudeen Arakan did not have data on methane levels for the surrounding homes near the park, including the city Housing Authority’s Throggs Neck Houses.

NYCHA’s Ralph Trocchio said a test last week showed no high methane levels at the complex.

FDNY Ladder 50 and Battalion 20 also found no methane checks around homes on Miles Ave and the NYCHA complex on Sept. 27.

But neighbor Eddie Quiles challenged the FDNY’s results after personally conducting his own check for methane at several homes on Miles and Emerson avenues.

“I detected high levels of what could be methane gas,” he said.

Like Quiles, neighbors remained skeptical.

“You know the Parks Department can’t even fix the benches,” blasted Patrick Villarruel. “Do you expect us to believe those readings?”

The city covered the remaining dump back in the 1960s following its closure. Pressure from the buried trash pushed out methane, a combustible gas neither visible or with any odor.

But longtime neighbors remember spotting pockets of methane fire erupting from the site. The phenomenon inspired several neighbors to refer to the site as “the volcano.”

“We probably have it in our bodies now,” cried resident Antonia Knapp, 67, an asthma sufferer.

But Assemblyman Mike Benedetto said he believed the DEC, commending agencies for collectively dispelling “the danger of higher levels.”

He said the DEC has promised to share methane test well results with the public.

“This will allow the community to be kept informed,” he said, “and remain ever vigilant on this matter.”

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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