HARLEM — Lack of feedback on tests for formaldehyde at Riverbank State Park has a community board concerned.
Chairman of Community Board 9 Padmore John said the Department of Environmental Protection has been slow to respond to questions about levels of formaldehyde at the park’s North River Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“I don’t know if they’ve stopped monitoring or if they’ve just given up,” he said.
Tests done this past December at the treatment plant showed a reading of 32 micrograms per cubic meter, which was slightly above the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s guidelines of 30 but still well below federal standards, according to the DEP.
John said the agency had previously agreed to provide regular updates about formaldehyde testing and last gave the board information this past February, which indicated the levels at that time were within the 30 mark.
But he is unsure about recent formaldehyde levels.
“There’s just a few things where they haven’t kept up their side of the bargain and addressing some of the issues that we’re coming up against,” said John.
“We want to make sure the community is properly informed about where the levels are and we deserve to be in the know about it.”
Formaldehyde, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a colorless, pungent gas used to make building materials. The CDC said sensitivity varies by person when exposed to the chemical, which can cause a sore throat, scratchy eyes and nosebleeds.
City and state officials said this past December that, despite slightly elevated levels of formaldehyde at the time, the air quality around Riverbank State Park posed no health risk to the park’s neighbors.
According to a news release on the agency’s website from last December, officials planned to evaluate modifications to plant operations with the DEC to reduce the concentration of formaldehyde and collect more air samples in the park and West Harlem.
The plant is responsible for cleaning and treating wastewater produced by roughly 600,000 residents living and working in the western portion of Manhattan, according to the agency’s website.
City Councilman Mark Levin, who represents the area, said he’s confident on-going monitoring is happening, but the agency should clarify and improve its reporting plans to ensure the community has the most up-to-date data.
“Information is crucial here because people are going to assume the worst,” Levine said.
Monitoring is happening but communicating widely is important… information should also be available online and in real time.”
Levine said his office is reaching out to the agency to find out why it has not provided the updates to the community board.
A spokesperson for the DEP, however, said the testing at the site is on-going, the levels remain below the state standards and the agency has been informing the North River Community Environmental Review Board, an independent community-based environment organization, at meetings and the Community Board 9 District Service Cabinet.
A representative for the local review board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.