Verizon Employees: You Probably Should Have Told Us About The Toxic Levels of Benzene

UPDATE: Verizon says toxic plume isn’t its fault

Maybe there’s a reason Verizon employees are so confused lately. Maybe they’ve been poisoned. Brooklyn Papers is reporting that “Dangerously high levels of benzene — a gasoline byproduct that can cause cancer if it is inhaled — have seeped into the soil below the Third Avenue site where Whole Foods is building its first Brooklyn store.”

Verizon has a facility that is in the epicenter of the toxic plume. The employees are not happy about it, and their union has lodged a complaint. “The union, Local 109 of the Communication Workers of America, said Verizon may have violated state safety laws by not informing workers that benzene…was underneath their workplace.”

“Let’s say 10 years down the line we get sick and it can be attributed to the high benzene. What happens then?” asked Jasper Clarke, a field technician who has worked at the site for a decade. Verizon used the site as a fuel station and was responsible for 5 oil spills, but that’s not the source of the benzene, according to Verizon.

“In all likelihood, we are not the source of the problem,” said the spokesman, John Bonomo, adding that oil spills on the site had been cleaned in 2003.” Cool. It must be the benzene gnomes. Gowanus is known for them.—MEGHANN MARCO

‘Toxic’ worksite has Verizon employees fearing for lives [Brooklyn Papers]
Gowanus toxic plume targeting Park Slopers [Brooklyn Papers]

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  1. Yeah.. and to think people drink this all the time, mostly when when they buy offbrand pop.

  2. x23 says:


    consumerist has already done benzene/soda stories :

    http://www.consumerist.com/consumer/benzene/the-benzene-sc

    slightly less reactionary than your link.

  3. Fuzzy_duffel_bag says:

    They should move their HQ to Greenpoint to get in on the oil spill plumes as well.

  4. tinfoil says:

    “”In all likelihood, we are not the source of the problem,” said the spokesman, John Bonomo, adding that oil spills on the site had been cleaned in 2003.”

    Wow, they stopped using it as a fueling station in the late 90′s but didn’t clean it up until 2003? Holy Crap!

    At work we had a vendor supplied diesel tank leak aboutt 500 litres of the stuff on the ground behind the building. Within a week there was heavy machinery there cleaning it up to the point where they actually dug underneath the building (and my office, creepy). Periodically over the next year or so, gubment people would be out testing the soil to make sure it was all cleaned up.

    Granted, this is in Canuckistan, and I would imagine our environmental laws are different, but one of the very first things the people responsible for the spill had to do was report it to the necessary government agencies.

  5. Tom says:

    Gowanus was known for smelling like an open sewer, at least when I lived in Park Slope in the early nineties. I have to admit to a wee bit of schadenfreude when gentrifying yuppies are shocked, shocked to find out that the neighborhoods that were used for industry for decades (if not centuries) before they moved in and jacked up real estate prices through the roof actually have industrial contaminants in the soil.

    That having been said, I can’t imagine that people who live on organic food will be too thrilled about shopping at that Whole Foods. Not that that bothers me too much; Whole Foods have killed independent organic groceries and co-ops in a number of communities that they’ve moved into. Schadenfreude abounds, I guess.

  6. snowferret says:

    They are at the center of the toxic shit and thev’ve been using it as a refueling station since the 90s and they KNOW they had spills and they only cleaned up recently and they still have the balls to claim they are not responsible? Is there some OTHER refueling station spilling toxic chemicals around the area? Also… Whole Foods building a store on this site? Uhm.. not cool.