According the documents on file with the DEC, multiple contaminants have been identified in soil, groundwater, and soil gas (the air that is trapped between loosely packed particles of earth). These toxins include mercury, lead, petroleum, polychlorinated biphenyls, and chlorinated solvents, as well as various volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds.
Mercury was found to be concentrated in the soil at levels of up to 120 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), which is more than 600 times higher than the DEC’s soil cleanup objective for unrestricted use of land. Lead was detected in the groundwater on the site at levels of up 725.5 micrograms per liter, which is more than 700 times the DEC’s guidance level of one microgram per liter.
The volatile organic compound xylene was found in the soil at concentrations of up 180 (mg/kg), which is almost 7,000 times the soil cleanup objective for unrestricted use of land. The soil also contains polychlorinated biphenyls at concentrations of up to 4.57 (mg/kg), which is nearly 50 times the DEC’s soil cleanup objective. The volatile organic compound benzene was detected at levels of up to 330 micrograms per liter. The DEC’s target for benzene is ground water is one microgram per liter.
The DEC’s brownfield program is designed to encourage private-sector cleanups of contaminated sites and to promote their redevelopment as a means to revitalize “economically blighted communities.” (It is not clear how the South Street Seaport qualifies as such a zone.) The program leaves cleanup to property owners and the contractors they hire, while providing technical oversight, and three kinds of incentives: funding to offset the cost of cleanup, tax credits, and liability relief, which absolves the land owner of future legal claims related to any contaminants that were removed from the site during the cleanup.