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New Phase of Testing Planned for O'Sullivan's Island

New Phase Of Testing Planned For O’Sullivan’s Island In Derby – By Eugene Driscoll/Valley Independent Sentinel

O’Sullivan’s Island, a recreation area and popular fishing spot at the confluence of the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers next to the Derby Greenway, will remain closed for at least the next four to five months as a new round of environmental assessments starts at the city-owned property.
The Derby Board of Aldermen closed O’Sullivan’s Island last January, after learning that a prior "removal action" by the federal Environmental Protection Agency dealt only with PCB contamination in the ground and not other pollutants.
The EPA didn’t pull a fast one on Derby. The fact that contamination was still in the ground at unknown levels was just never fully explained to the public by local officials.
The Valley Council of Governments — as of Jan. 1, 2015 known as the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments — is using about $300,000 in grants to test the soil.
The goal now is to find precisely what pollutants are in the ground, where they are, at what levels, and what has to be done to deal with it.
While the city has known generally about the contamination for generations, no one’s ever catalogued it, one of the first steps to take before cleaning it, officials said.
The city received preliminary results from soil samples in September showing there was contamination within the first six inches of soil on O’Sullivan’s Island — though at not high enough levels to threaten the public.
But the same preliminary results identified several areas of concern throughout the property where there were levels of arsenic or lead.
Further soil testing is needed at those spots, and groundwater samples need to be collected to determine whether there is any groundwater contamination, Arthur Bogen, an environmental planner working for the council of governments, told Derby officials Thursday.
Bogen made his comments at a meeting of the Derby Aldermen and the city’s O’Sullivan’s Island Committee in City Hall.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health is finalizing a report on the soil contamination. It is still under review by various environmental agencies on the local, state and federal level.
In addition to the underground water testing, Bogen recommended that a "phase one" environmental assessment be done on the property.
The "phase one" assessment is basically a list of who used the property over the years, and how.
It must be done if the city ever hopes to qualify for state or federal grants that could be used to fund a cleanup.
"What went on there, who did what when, what were the operations, what were the kinds of concerns that have been developed, and document that," Bogen said of the assessment.
The history of O’Sullivan’s Island is diverse, to say the least. It’s not actually island at this point, but a peninsula.
It was owned by John F. O’Sullivan, a former elected official, newspaperman, and insurance agent who died in 1932. He wanted to turn the island into a public park, according to this account credited to the Evening Sentinel.
A racetrack was built there, according to the Sentinel, and car races were held. Derby High School football and baseball teams played there, and O’Sullivan rented out the property to carnivals.
A portion of the property was used as a town dump.

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