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Dec 22, 2014 5:33 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Groundwater Not Contaminated By Utility Poles, But Soil Readings Are High

Dec 23, 2014 11:43 AM

There are no traces of a controversial wood preservative in the groundwater in East Hampton Village or East Hampton Town, according to test results from a Suffolk County-based environmental and engineering firm released on Monday—but it was found in high levels in the soil surrounding recently installed utility poles.

The chemical, Penta, which is short for pentachlorophenol, is used to treat the wood in utility poles and was feared by some residents as having seeped from the poles and contaminated the groundwater. The concerns were brought to light by local non-profits like Long Island Businesses for Responsible Energy (LIBFRE) and Save East Hampton, after PSEG Long Island installed new utility poles in January as part of a project to “harden” the area’s electrical system, and the groups pushed for testing to be done and poles be removed.

But while the chemical was not detected in the water, the soil immediately surrounding the poles rendered “levels far exceeding the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation standards,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a press release.

“PCP was detected in soil at each of the three sampling locations, with concentrations of up to 79,700 micrograms per kilogram detected” at 12 to 18 inches into the soil, according to a report from the FPM Group, the organization hired to perform the test. The DEC allows 6,700 micrograms per kilogram of the chemical in commercial areas.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the utility company was in the process of reviewing the report, which officials had not seen before being contacted by The Press.

“In our cursory review, the findings of the report appear to be consistent with what the EPA and experts in the field would expect,” said Mr. Weir. “That penta was not detected in the groundwater and that some of the penta has migrated downward towards the immediate area around the poles, which is exactly what penta is designed to do; to help protect the poles and ensure their longevity.”

To rectify the problem, town and village officials are asking that PSEG test for the chemical around all of the 276 utility poles installed earlier this year, as well as prepare and enact a remediation plan to remove and replace the contaminated soil.

“I think the high level of penta exceeding the DEC’s acceptable levels is alarming,” Mr. Cantwell said by phone. “And I think the utility has a responsibility to make it right.”

Mr. Cantwell said he plans to notify the county health department, the New York State DEC, and the state health department of the findings and ask for their input. When asked whether compelling the utility company to remediate the soil was an option, Mr. Cantwell said: “One step at a time.”

East Hampton Town filed a lawsuit against PSEG after a stop-work order was issued at a power substation in Amagansett in April. The utility company tried to get the stop-work order removed by asking the State Supreme Court in Riverhead for an injunction, but was denied. PSEG then tried to appeal the decision, but was denied again. The company additionally requested a summary judgment—asking the judge to rule on the merits of the case—over the summer, but no decision was made, Mr. Cantwell said. PSEG made additional arguments in front of the judge about a month ago and both parties are awaiting a decision.

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And when Cantwell says pay for and take responsibility he means pass on all costs to ratepayers.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Dec 23, 14 8:44 AM
It was made abundantly clear that Cantwell sat in on at least 4 meetings when LIPA presented their plans to the Village. He had months to surface his concerns if he felt uncomfortable objecting at the time. But no, it was election time and he said nothing. Then when PSEG takes over and McGirk and Cedar Streets object, Cantwell suddenly believes its horrific. Why would you believe he believes in anything.
By fact (25), east hampton on Dec 24, 14 3:42 PM
Someone in basement of Town Hall told me there was a meeting between PSEG/LIPA in the big meeting room in Town Hall way back before the project started and he was shown road maps and areal maps of the proposed poles up and down Town Lane and Old Stone Highway and said nothing - to anyone. Has anyone asked Wilkinson about this more than tacit approval? We must explore all elected leaders who did nothing.
By polewatcher (8), east hampton on Jan 10, 15 3:04 PM
Ahhh - "the politics of blame" start already ... must be an election year! I am not opposed to the height of the poles (polewatcher), don't believe we should be paying Town officials to be "reactive" to things they already knew, and did nothing about, and the "levels" here are not significant enough to threaten groundwater, but will allow the (expensive!!) poles to last longer ... duh??
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Jan 10, 15 8:45 PM
"Fact" is the one starting the blame game, right out if thin air. The point of my comment was really to show that there were many who knew something about the poles but yet the poles went in. Rather than blame Cantwell, or anyone else for that matter, why can't we get behind Cantwell and the Mayor and try to do something. However, if people like 'Fact" and his ilk want to politicize this and mention elections, then it is only fair that "Fact" should ask where was the Town and its leadership at ...more
By polewatcher (8), east hampton on Jan 11, 15 2:50 PM