Great Kills Park Environmental Cleanup Project

Great Kills Park Entrance Sign
Great Kills Park is located on the south shore of Staten Island. Despite the closure of the contaminate area at Great Kills Park, there are still a lot of activities.  Buffalo Road and the multi-use path are completely open.  The swimming beach is under lifeguard protection from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and fishing spots abound.

NPS PHOTO

 
Map of CERCLA work area at Great Kills Park.  Contractors will be working on property outlined in red through August 2016
Contractors will be working in the area within the red line through August 2016.

National Park Service

Current Investigation

NPS currently is undertaking a comprehensive remedial investigation (RI) to characterize radioactive and potential chemical contaminants present within the Site. Once the entire Site has been thoroughly investigated, NPS will evaluate potential risks to human health and the environment; identify cleanup standards; evaluate alternatives to address environmental impacts; and recommend the implementation of a remedy that ensures the long-term protection of human health and the environment.

In 2016, NPS accelerated the investigation of a 43-acre section of the Site, referred to as Operable Unit 1 (OU1), so that the results could inform construction planning for the South Shore of Staten Island Coastal Storm Risk Management Project, which may be sited within or adjacent to OU1. The OU1 investigation is complete and a report of the findings will be available to the public in the next update of the site Administrative Record, which is planned for the fall of 2017.

 
ariel image of Great Kills Park 1949
Aerial image of Great Kills 1949

Site Background

Great Kills Park comprises approximately 523 acres in the vicinity of the Raritan and Lower Bays of Great Kills Harbor, in the borough of Staten Island. Between 1934 to 1951, City of New York Department of Parks administered the Marine Park Project to develop the Great Kills Harbor as a shorefront recreation area. From 1944-1948 the City used waste material to fill in the wetlands and increase the useable land footprint which was common practice at the time. The City operated Great Kills as a City park until it was transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) in 1972 and became part of the Staten Island Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area.

Environmental Investigations

Elevated levels of radioactivity were first discovered in Great Kills Park in 2005 during an aerial survey conducted by New York City Police Department to develop a baseline radiological map of the city. From 2005-2007, additional areas of elevated radioactivity, subsequently determined to be radium-226, were found within Great Kills Park. In response to these discoveries, the NPS, under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act ("CERCLA"), took actions to determine the extent of radiological contamination and identify and implement short term measures to protect public health and the environment until a permanent remedy is selected and implemented. Between 2007 and 2009, the NPS completed a Preliminary Assessment, excavated and removed seven locations of radioactive contamination and closed the site to the public to prevent exposure to elevated levels of radioactivity.

As of July 2014, the NPS has completed a radiological survey of the 265 acres comprising the site, and restricted public access through the installation of over 18,000 feet of perimeter fencing with four (4) chain link gates. The radiological survey identified more than 1,200 discrete areas with elevated radiological readings spread over the site. NPS excavatedthirty five (35) of those locations. The remaining locations will require further analysis to determine if they pose a risk to human health or the environment.

The NPS has determined that this radiological contamination is not limited to discrete items, such as discarded radium needles, contrary to early speculation. Rather, it is now apparent that there are a variety of items that are the source of elevated radioactivity comingled with other waste-fill material that was placed on the Site when it received municipal waste in the 1940s. In addition, there is reason to believe that this waste material included chemical contaminants of concern and not just radiological contaminants.

 
Gamma testing at Great Kills Park.
Gamma testing at Great Kills Park

NPS PHOTO

Next Steps

NPS currently is developing the work plans to continue the Remedial Investigation within the rest of the Site, referred to as Operable Unit 2 (OU2). OU2 field activities will be similar to those performed in OU1 and will include: investigations to determine the extent of waste fill, additional radiological surveys, and sampling of environmental media, such as soil, groundwater, sediment, and surface water. The RI Report will characterize impacted areas of Great Kills Park and will include human health and ecological risk assessments. The results presented in the RI Report will provide a basis for evaluating cleanup alternatives in a Feasibility Study to ensure site conditions are protective of human health and the environment and allow for the continued use of Great Kills Park by the community for recreational purposes. NPS will then develop a Proposed Plan for public review and comment, which will outline the preferred cleanup alternative identified for Great Kills Park. Public feedback will be taken into consideration prior to the identification of the selected remedy, which is documented in a Record of Decision. Once the Record of Decision has been finalized, the remedial design will be developed and a remedial action will be implemented in all areas of Great Kills Park determined to require cleanup.

CERCLA provides a thorough site investigation and cleanup framework that takes several years to complete. Additional information regarding the CERCLA cleanup process can be found at the USEPA website: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-cleanup-process.

 
Great Kills Park site map- this area is closed to the public for safety reasons
Great Kills Park

National Park Service

Community Involvement

Community Involvement is a very important part of the CERCLA process. In 2011, a public information session was held and community input helped shape the development of a Community Involvement Plan (CIP) for the Great Kills Park Site. The CIP and other documents that will be considered or relied up on the in the selection of a response action for this site are part of the site's Administrative Record file. The Administrative Record is available for public review at the Great Kills Branch of the New York Public Library, 56 Giffords Lane, Staten Island.

As the NPS implements the CERCLA process, there will be many other opportunities for the public to be involved in the process.
To stay informed you can:
  • go to the Community Involvement section of the project website and sign up to receive project updates via e-mail.;
  • email questions at any time to e-mail us;
  • call our Public Affairs Office at 718-354-4602;
  • go to the Environmental Investigation section of the project website and to learn more about the project and download copies of key documents;
  • download our FAQ sheet.

Last updated: June 8, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

210 New York Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10305

Phone:

(718) 354-4606

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