The National Park Service (NPS) is conducting a Remedial Investigation (RI) at the Great Kills Site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). RI fieldwork for Operable Unit 1 (OU1) was completed in 2016 and fieldwork activities for the RI of Operable Unit 2 (OU2) are underway.
In 2016, NPS accelerated the investigation of the 43-acre section of Great Kills Park (referred to as OU1), so that the results of the investigation could be used to inform construction planning for the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Civil Works South Shore of Staten Island Coastal Storm Risk Management Project (SSSI CSRM) which may be located within or adjacent to OU1. A report of the OU1 Remedial Investigation findings is available here and will also be made available to the public in the Great Kills Park Administrative Record (AR).
Field work associated with the RI of OU2 is scheduled to being in the fall of 2018. A report will be prepared that documents the activities and findings of the investigation, as it was with OU1. Once all of the Great Kills site has been thoroughly investigated, the NPS plans to combine the data from both OU1 and OU2 into a single, comprehensive Remedial Investigation Report that documents the evaluation of potential risks to human health and the environment, identifies cleanup standards, evaluates alternatives to address environmental impacts, and recommends the implementation of a remedy that ensures the long-term protection of human health and the environment.
Establishment and Public Use of Great Kills Park
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. In 1925 the City of New York initiated a land plan to develop Marine Park (a.k.a. Great Kills Park). The plan involved placement of waste fill to raise the property elevation, fill in the wetlands, and increase the useable land footprint to allow the property to be developed as a city park and shorefront recreation area. Using waste fill for this purpose was common practice at this time. The majority of the waste fill was placed from 1944 to 1948. New York City operated Great Kills as a city park until it was transferred to the NPS in 1972 and became part of the Staten Island Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area.
Great Kills Park is located on the South Shore of Staten Island. The NPS maintains and operates several public recreation facilities including a beach center, hiking and biking trails, fishing areas, a marina and boat launch ramp, and associated parking areas. There is a multi-use path used for walking, jogging, biking, and roller skating, and several grassy areas used for recreational purposes. Several hiking trails are located in the southern portion (Crooke's Point) of the park and bird watching is popular along the shoreline. Swimming beaches are located along the southeastern and southwestern portions of the park. Swimming is only allowed in the lifeguarded beach located south of the bay side of Great Kills Harbor. Nichols Marina is located at the western side of the park.
As a result of the discovery of radiological contamination at the park in 2005 (see Site Background/Environmental Investigations), the NPS closed portions of the park and restricted public access via fencing. The closed portion of the park was historically used for environmental education, walking, baseball and softball, other athletics, and model airplane flying. The closed area is approximately 280 acres. OU1 is 43 acres (situated within and along the northeastern perimeter of the site) and OU2 is the remaining 237 acres. In 2013 and 2014, the NPS installed additional fencing and three gates at access points to preclude entry. Warning signs were posted every 25 feet along the fence to notify the public of the potential risks associated with the site. Additionally, areas of the park southeast of Hylan Boulevard and north of Great Kills Harbor and approximately 1,000 feet south of Wetland Road are fenced, signed, and identified on area maps as locations closed for safety.
Despite the closure of the contaminated area at Great Kills Park, there are many activities that the public can continue to enjoy. Buffalo Road and the multi-use path are completely open for walking, biking and hiking enthusiasts. Additionally, the swimming beach is open and under lifeguard protection from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Fishing spots abound and the marina and boat launch ramp are available for boaters visiting Great Kills Harbor.
CERCLA and NPS Authority
NPS is authorized under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) to respond as the Lead Agency to a release or threatened release of harmful substances and/or a release of any pollutant or contaminant that may present an imminent and substantial danger to public health or welfare on or from land under the jurisdiction, custody or control of the NPS.
In response to the discovery of radiological contamination at Great Kills Park, the NPS, pursuant to 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 could be selected and implemented.
The NPS moves all contaminated sites located on lands under its jurisdiction through four phases of cleanup. Each phase of cleanup has specific requirements and milestones based on CERCLA (or the applicable authority). At the Great Kills Park Site, cleanup phases and milestones are based on CERCLA and its implementing regulations documented in the National Contingency Plan (NCP). The NCP establishes the structure for responding to releases and threatened releases of hazardous substances. Enabling meaningful community involvement throughout the investigation, selection, and implementation of cleanup activities is an ongoing activity and requirement that reaches across all phases of the NPS Cleanup Framework. The following diagram depicts the NPS approach and key milestones for investigating and cleaning up the Great Kills Park Site.
NPS Cleanup Framework Phases
Community Involvement During all Phases
Site CERCLA Milestones
Interim Removal Action
Site Investigation Planning
Cleanup Action Vetting
Sampling & Analysis Plan
Record of Decision
Cleanup Action Planning
Cleanup Action Implementation
Remedial Design Report
Construction Completion Report
Post Cleanup Action Monitoring
Five-Year Review Monitoring
Certificate of Completion
Final Monitoring/Long-Term Monitoring Report
Site Background/Environmental Investigations
Elevated levels of radioactivity were first discovered at Great Kills Park in 2005 during an aerial survey conducted by the New York City Police Department, which was developing a baseline radiological map of the city. From 2005 to 2007, the NPS, working in conjunction with other entities, found additional areas of elevated radioactivity within the park. The source of radioactivity was subsequently determined to be Radium-226.
Between 2007 and 2009, the NPS completed a Preliminary Assessment of the Site and initiated an Interim Response Action in which NPS excavated and removed seven identified locations of radioactive contamination, and closed the site to the public to prevent exposure to elevated levels of radioactivity.
From 2012 to 2015, NPS undertook a Time Critical Removal Action (TCRA) at the site. By July 2014, the NPS had completed a radiological survey of the site (which at that time encompassed 265 acres within the Park) and restricted public access through the installation of over 18,000 feet of perimeter fencing, including four chain link fences. The results of the TCRA demonstrated that radioactive sources were commingled with other waste fill material and distributed throughout the park in the former waste disposal area. Additionally, there were reasons to believe that the waste fill material included chemical contaminants of concern, in addition to the radiological contaminants.
Based upon the results of the TCRA, the NPS determined that a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS), pursuant to CERCLA, would be necessary to fully characterize the extent of contamination that may pose a risk to the public and/or the environment and to evaluate permanent remedial alternatives to address the contamination. In July 2015, NPS began scoping the RI activities, including developing a Historical Site Assessment/Records Search (HSA/RS) to gather historical information about past Site operations, environmental investigations, and potential contaminants. Information collected during the HSA/RS is being used to inform the investigation of the Site. In 2016, RI OU1 field work began. The activities conducted and findings of the 2016 investigation are documented in the 2017 OU1 Environmental Investigation Report. Additional information about all of the investigations conducted at the Great Kills Park Site can be found here.
The Consultative Workgroup
Recognizing and appreciating that a number of federal, state, and local agencies have an interest in the investigation and cleanup of the Great Kills Park Site, as well as responsibilities for protecting public health and the environment, NPS formed a Consultative Workgroup (CWG) made up of agency representatives following completion of the TCRA. The purpose of the CWG is to share information and ensure that NPS decision-making is fully informed and transparent among all government shareholders. The CWG provides a forum for sharing technical views of each agency on all aspects of the RI/FS process. Through the CWG members have the opportunity to remain fully informed and to provide input as the investigation proceeds.
NPS is developing work plans to continue the RI for the remainder of the site (OU2), an area that is five times larger than OU1. Based on the historical information presented in the HSA/RS, similar contaminant sources and impacts to the environment are anticipated in OU2. In addition, historical activities conducted within OU2, including the operation of two marine unloading stations adjacent to the Great Kills Harbor and the operation of the Bay Terrace maintenance garage and incinerator will be investigated because these historical operations may have served as additional sources of contamination at the site.
The NPS intends to perform multi-phase sampling within OU2 to optimize RI activities. Soil, groundwater, surface water, and sediment sampling will be conducted, as will an underwater gamma survey. Subsequent phases of RI sampling within OU2 will be informed by the results of this first phase of the investigation. The NPS's goals, as a result of the Phase 1 sampling event, are to better define the lateral and vertical extent of waste fill within OU2, evaluate whether historical operations in OU2 have resulted in releases of hazardous substances that pose a potential threat to human health or the environment, characterize the nature of the contamination, and generate data that supports the sample design for subsequent investigations within OU2. A report will be prepared following the completion of the OU2 investigation.
A comprehensive RI Report will document the results of field investigations for both OU1 and OU2. The results presented in the RI Report will provide the foundation for how the NPS will evaluate cleanup alternatives in the Feasibility Study Report 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 once the remediation is completed. The NPS will then develop a Proposed Plan for public review and comment, which will outline the preferred cleanup option identified for the site. Public feedback will be sought and considered prior to finalization of the Proposed Plan, which will be documented in the Site Record of Decision (ROD). Once the ROD is finalized, the NPS will prepare the Remedial Design and commence Remedial Action in all areas of the Great Kills Park Site determined to require cleanup.
Community Involvement in a very important aspect of the CERCLA process. Community involvement ensures that the members of the public affected by a site undergoing investigation and cleanup under CERCLA, such as the Great Kills Park Site, have a say in the process, a right-to-know what the agency- NPS is doing to address the contamination, and provide input into the decision-making process. Early and meaningful communication with affected community members is the goal of the community involvement process, which occurs throughout the lifecycle of the NPS Cleanup Framework.
The Community Involvement Plan (CIP) is a resource to enable meaningful community involvement. It serves as a guide for the NPS to inform and engage community members, government officials, the media, and other interested parties in the environmental investigation and cleanup activities at the site. As such, it is a living document that is updated and revised as appropriate, as site conditions and events change. The ways in which the NPS encourages communication with the public are described in detail in the CIP. The CIP and other documents that will be considered or relied upon in the selection of a response action to address the contamination at the site are part of the Administrative Record File.
The Administrative Record File is available for public review at two locations:
New York Public Library
Great Kills Branch
56 Giffords Lane
Staten Island, NY 10308
Staten Island Museum -
75 Stuyvesant Place
Staten Island, NY 10301
Community involvement activities at the Great Kills Park Site commenced in the fall of 2006 through a media advisory notice and a series of news releases, and has continued since then through a variety of mechanisms including site fact sheets/community updates, notices of availability of documents as specified by CERCLA and the NCP, and via letter,e-mail and at public meetings. The NPS has conducted direct public outreach, including public meetings and information sessions as well as providing updates at local Community Board meetings. NPS staff regularly updates members of Community Board 2 and Community Board 3 regarding the investigations and cleanup activities occurring at the Great Kills Park Site. These meetings are open to all members of the public. More information can be obtained by contacting one or both Community Boards.
Community Board 2
460 Brielle Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10314
As the Great Kills Park Site investigation and cleanup proceeds pursuant to CERCLA, there will be more opportunities for you to be involved in the process and provide input. In lieu of formal public meetings, you can obtain information and ask questions in a variety of ways.
To stay informed you can:
sign up to receive project updates via e-mail. Email us at greatkillscleanup@npsgov to sign up.
e-mail questions at any time to email@example.com
call the NPS Public Affairs Office at 718-815-3651
go to the Environmental Investigation section of this page to learn more about the project and how to obtain key documents