No safe harbor
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Contacted Monday afternoon, Shah-Gavnoudias said that the DPW was trying to help the residents around Barnes Avenue. “We’re fully aware of what took place following the coastal surge,” she said. “The Bay Park plant lost the ability to pump sewage because the tidal surge destroyed the electronic equipment. Some of the homes in that area may have been contaminated.”
Although she clarified that cleanup of the area would not include individual homes, Shah-Gavnoudias said that a contractor was already in place to start working on the streets and pipes. “We have a contract in place to repair that sewer line and roadway and the contractor will clean the area,” she said. “We’re awaiting a markout of the utilities from LIPA and our contractor is ready to mobilize. Once the utilities are marked out, they can begin.”
Shah-Gavnoudias would not comment on what health hazards the sewage spill might pose for residents in the area.
Staying away, possibly for good
Jeffrey Press said he’d already seen crews cleaning his street, but protested that the effort consisted only of spraying water “right from the hydrant.” (Shah-Gavnoudias believes this substance was a mixture of water and bleach, which might not have been evident to a street-side observer. She also said a DPW crew with a mixture of water and bleach would make a second visit to the neighborhood on Nov. 13.) Nonetheless, the Presses believe the unseen danger inside their neighbors’ homes is significant.
“You’re looking at hepatitis, typhoid, cholera,” said Erica Press. “Third-world stuff. My neighbors in upper-middle-class Baldwin aren’t aware of these risks. They’re moving back in like nothing happened.”
Jeffrey said that beyond merely staying out of their home for the moment, his family is considering leaving altogether. “I just interviewed for a job in Denver,” he said. “If I get it, we’re out of here. We’re just going to walk away from the house. It’s already below the value we paid for it, and it’s not coming back.”