Public/Personal issue – Toxic Fumes!

Have you ever had petroleum fumes inside your home?

I went through a time-period last winter that was ‘Fume Hell’…. like being inside a gas tank in your kitchen.

Below is documentation of the process I went through to find out more information- still inconclusive!

Take a deep breath.

Signing off for today,



FEB 3 – 8, 2010
Fumes, terrible petroleum odor in house emanating from basement sewer well or underground.  Fumes dissipated over time, most intense on first few days.

Sat FEB 6, 2010
called 311 again
reference C1-1-541-391-793

called 311
filed complaint – DEP
reference C1-1-541-358-249

MON FEB 8, 2010
DEC (Hazan Ahmed) and DEP (guy did not leave contact info, handwritten name looked like Mohammed Ojo) could definitely smell the Fumes.  Checked out basement. Could not find oil residue on sump pump, suggested airing out.

FRI, FEB 12, 2010
DEP tested outside sewer line on block, appeared normal.  See report in longer timeline.

FEB 26 – 28, 2010 – FUMES, begin second episode, not quite as heavy as first time.
I called 311, they said that DEP would come over.
The ref number is
184 992 782

FRI FEB 26 cont. – DEP HAZMAT inspection
Sherif Gerges and Deanna Brown, both from NYCDEP – Hazmat, found petroleum Fumes but could not determine source, said must call Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations.  BWSO is impossible for a resident to contact.  See below.

MAR 22. 2010
No conclusions on petroleum source yet.


Background info, I’m a neighborhood resident for 3.5 years.

I’m guessing that this is probably not related to fumes but you may find it interesting:

btw, there is a large construction site directly behind my place, but the foundation pounding work stopped (temporarily?) last summer/fall ’09 when the neighborhood was rezoned.  Not sure of the current status on that construction.  Have noticed that some kind of small activity is going on there as of this month, but not the earth-pounding foundation-shaking movement of last year.  This may or may not be related to the construction, but at that time 1/2 of the electricity on my first floor faltered and then went out completely.  I filed a report about my electricity going out at that time.  Then, months later, on Friday morning 12/18/09 two people who claimed to be from Con Edison to install a new meter were let in by my unsuspecting housemate when I was not home.  They asked questions about electricity being out and examined the basement.  My housemate said that they didn’t look the part but did have clipboards but no badges.  They had repeatedly rang the doorbell.  After I was told about this, I called Con Edison to inquire and they said that there were no work orders for my address, nobody had been to my house that day, and they checked all the Con Ed departments to make sure, finding no evidence.  I still have the same meters and they are still working the same as before.  Con Ed said that they were likely imposters and recommended that I file a Security Incident Report with them, which I did.  Wow is this fun!


Wed Feb 3, 2010
Starting early in morning, toxic fumes come from the basement.  Terrible odor, can’t breath it, residents and myself can’t stay in the house.
Called the furnace fuel oil company and they sent someone over- they checked for any oil leaks but did not find any and said that the smell was coming from something else, not the furnace.
Note, that night, this may or may not be related, myself and another in the house were sick, nausea and vomiting.

Thurs. Feb 4, 2010
Turned off the furnace all day to see if the fumes would diminish, but nothing happened so we turned it back on that night.

Fri Feb 6, 2010
called 311
They connected me with the fire dept who came over and checked out the basement, they could certainly smell the fumes, but determined it was not a fire issue and left.

Sat Feb 6, 2010
called 311 again
reference C1-1-541-391-793

numbers that were given to me and that I called:

poison control center 212-764-7667

they told me to call

EPA 202-272-0167
they told me to call

EPA 212-637-3000

told me to call
EPA national emergency 732-548-8730

told me to call

EPA emergency national 800-424-8802
told me to call

EPA NY 518-402-8545


DEC 800-457-7362

311 had also told me to call Dept of mental health and hygiene
where Dr. Bruck told me to call 311 again and file a complaint with the DEP.

called 311
filed complaint on DEP
reference C1-1-541-358-249

MON FEB 8, 2010
Called and spoke to Dawn Hettrick, DOH
Note, as Dawn Hettrick (DOH) pointed out, my home is outside of the designated testing area for hazardous waste.
also left message with David Harrington, NYS DEC, but ended up speaking with another fellow he works with.

DEC (Hazan Ahmed) and DEP (guy did not leave contact info, handwritten name looked like Mohammed Ojo) checked out basement and could not find oil residue on sump pump, suggested airing out, as they could definitely smell the fumes.

TUESDAY FEB 11, 2010
I went to the CB1 meeting and made a public comment about the fumes in my house.
After meeting spoke briefly with Evelyn Cruz (community coordinator, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez), Rami Metal (community liason council member Levin’s office), Carolyn Sanders-James, Dir. Brooklyn Affairs Unit for Office of Mayor), Channel 12 News.

WED FEB 10, 2010
Hazan Ahmed, DEC, called and left message, I called back several times but he has yet to call back.
Also Rami Metal called.  He said he would try to see if there’ s any help for me, we will communicate tomorrow.

Ongoing step by step correspondence with
Rami Metal, Community Liaison (Office of Council Member Stephen Levin).

THURS FEB 11, 2010

I called the spill hotline and spoke to dispatcher Leuber who gave me a reference number 09 11 958.  He said that the DEC would be calling me to come look at the place.  I told him that DEC had already been to the house and he said they’d still call.

Then the first DEC guy, Hasan Ahmed called and told me that only DEP can help with the sewers if they are clogged in the street.

I left messages today and yesterday with Steve Stangerslan 718-482-6153 of the Region 2 Spill Office, no return call yet.  That number was given to me by the original spill hotline dispatcher Leubner who said that DEC would be calling me, nothing yet.

FRI, FEB 12, 2010 also
DEC tested outside sewer line on block.


I spoke with Yolanda Brooks, DOH, Environmental Investigation.  She agreed that since I am concerned and my home is just blocks from the designated testing area that DEC be asked to test the house.

If there is nothing found then we can rest assured, if there is something found then something could be done about it.

THURS, Feb 18, 2010
Rami: Apparently DEC came to the block to inspect on Friday.

I was home all day on that Friday 2/12/10, DEC did not call or ring doorbell.  Fumes were not present in house on this day.


—–Original Message—–
From: Muller, Richard []
Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 9:34 AM
To: Metal, Rami
Cc: Hubbard, Denise
Subject: FW: DERTA responding in Brooklyn

Rami – Denise Hubbard will be giving you a call on this and to introduce
herself as the go-to person on constituent issues.
—–Original Message—–
From: Hubbard, Denise
Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 9:28 AM
To: Muller, Richard
Subject: FW: DERTA responding in Brooklyn


Location: ______ Street

Responders: M. Johnson, T. Fraczak

Situation: Caller states there is a toxic odor coming from the sewer
near the address.

Observations: DERTA responded to scene. Responders surveyed all drainage
entrances, manhole covers, and grates along the entire block that the
address is on. DERTA’s survey instruments did not find any hazardous
substances in the ambient air and all other areas mentioned earlier.
There is no apparent odor in the air other than cooked food from a
nearby cafe.

Caller states there is toxic odor coming from sewer well in basement of house which is connected to the street.

MON FEB 22, 2010
Gerry Kelpin, Director Air/Noise Policies/Enforcement, contacts me, uses the email address of someone named Alyssa Preston.

On Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 6:32 PM, Preston, Alyssa <> wrote:
Dear Ms. Sumner:

I am writing in response to your email to the Mayor’s Office concerning the emission of fumes into the open air form a location near your home. Please provide the location of where this problem emanates from and the Department of Environmental Protection can conduct an inspection. I do not know why the call was transferred to the FDNY unless you said there was smoke and it was interpreted as a fire. Thank you.

Gerry Kelpin
Director, Air/Noise Policies/Enforcement

FEB 23, 2010
Preston, Alyssa <>

Sasha Sumner

Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 10:33 AM
RE: #1-1-541358249 Fumes

hide details Feb 23

If it is a sewer odor, then we should forward to the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations.

Feb 22 – Mar 11 CONTINUED MESSAGES to/from Gerry Kelpin up to March 11, 2010.  Repeated pattern of me asking for help and Gerry saying BWSO would contact me.  Nothing yet.

FRI FEB 26, 2010 – FUMES, begin second episode, not quite as heavy as last time.

I called 311, they said that DEP would come over.
The ref number is
184 992 782

FRI FEB 26 cont. – DEC HAZMAT inspection


Sasha Sumner


“Metal, Rami” <>

Deanna Brown <>

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 6:59 PM


Fumes – Fri 2/26/2010

Follow up on oil/petroleum fumes experienced today Friday 2/26/10.

Sherif Gerges and Deanna Brown, both from NYCDEP – Hazmat, came to my house to investigate the fumes today around 3pm.

They could definitely smell the odor when they entered the home.   We went down to the basement where more intense fumes were emanating from.   Sherif was holding a meter.  They both agreed that some kind of oil/petroleum was detected.

They recommended that I contact the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations, call 311 to request an inspection.  As follow-up they also said that they would put in a request to the BWSO themselves immediately.  I have just tried calling, but since it’s after 5pm now, BWSO is closed until Monday, so can’t put the request in yet, I hope they did earlier today.

They concluded that the source could be either from the sewer line connected to the house in the well in the basement or from some kind of ‘oil spill’ at the house.  The ‘oil spill’ could have been connected to the pipes to the oil furnace or from something underground or behind walls.

Note, on the latter option, in the event that the oil originated from a spill of some kind in the house-  If that was the case, the only oil in the house is from the furnace.  I’ve resided at the house for 3 years and there has been no handling of oil/petroleum in the house other than delivery to the furnace.  There have been no oil deliveries since December 2009.  At the first fumes episode, (2/3/10), I called the oil company that delivers and services the furnace and they immediately came over to inspect and concluded that there were no leaks and the fumes were coming from somewhere else, not furnace related.

In the event that something had been spilled in the house prior to 3 years, why would that smell be coming up just now?  Why then would the neighbors have also complained of the same fumes during the first more intense ‘fumes’ episode on Feb 3, 2010?  If it was some kind of spill, then it would have been much larger than just something from inside my house as to have affected the neighbors across the street as well as the neighbors up the block.  They have told me that they experienced fumes at that very same time.

Due to these facts, it seems more likely that the fumes come from the sewer connected to the street, and if not that, then from some larger underground spill.

I hope there are some conclusions to this investigation.  I can still smell it in the kitchen now and the food is not liking it, not to mention my human body.  Unfortunately it’s not over yet.

S. Sumner

FRI FEB 26, 2010 cont.
Preston, Alyssa <>


Sasha Sumner

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 12:38 PM
RE: #1-1-541358249 Fumes

hide details Feb 26

You should call 311 and register a complaint, the 311 operator will give you a complaint number. I have forwarded your message to the person who routes these complaints and asked that the appropriate person in BWSO contact you.
Nothing yet from BWSO.



TUES MAR 2 & 3
Two days of ‘light fumes’ around this time period, mostly affecting basement.

TUES MAR 2, 2010


Brown, Deanna <>

to sasha
“Gerges, Sherif” <>

Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 11:00 AM


Re: Fumes – Fri 2/26/2010


We have forward your situation to Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations. They will be investigating and following thur with your compliant.

Deanna Brown

Hazmat Specialist

96-05 Horace Harding Expy

Corona, NYC 11368

Phone# 718-595-7244

Fax# 718-595-4690

Mobile# 646-265-6130

Mon Mar 10, 2010

As per DEP request/suggestion, I tried to contact the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations, but was unable to.  311 only passes me to a billing office in another borough or to some department that is not what I’m looking for.  We’ve had two light days of fumes since the last episode when DEP came. (DEP came Feb 26, 2010 and fumes continued to Feb 27, 28)  I have no way to contact BWSO, there is no public phone number.

Mar 11. 2010
Phone message today from DEP, Dan Bulerd (Sp?), who said he was responding to a request that I get a call.  He said that the sewers were checked on 2/27/10 and that everything was fine.  He was referring to the time that DEP came to the block but did not attempt contact and did not come inside the house.  He also said that there was a survey going on in the neighborhood and didn’t know that date on that and that the community board is looking into it. (Did not say what the survey name was.) He also said that Hazmat was there, but didn’t have anything to say about it.

Very frustrating getting this message because he did not leave any contact info and he said everything was fine.  He does not recognize the full story, and did not sound very concerned at all that everyone in the house had to breath toxic fumes on two separate episodes.  He blew off the positive Hazmat findings just saying “Hazmat was there”.  This sure sounds irresponsible and unprofessional.

Thurs Mar 18, 2010
Went to Greenpoint Petroleum Remediation Project meeting.
Dawn Hetrick, DOH
Karl Berger, DEC, Citizen Participation Specialist, Bureau of Public Outreach
Phillip Musegaas, Esq, Riverkeeper, Hudson River Program Director
Michael Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator, Center for Health Env & Justice
Suzanne Mattei, DEC, Regional Director, region 2
Sonia Moghe, News 12 Brooklyn

FRI MAR 19, 2010

Still no response from BWSO.
Request for inspection by the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations was put in to BWSO by Deanna Brown, DEP Hazmat, on Friday Feb 26, 2010.  I’ve been unable to reach them as 311 does not give a direct number.

Mon Mar 22, 2010
Still no response from BWSO.  Sending Fumes Timeline to all who I met at the meeting.

One thought on “Public/Personal issue – Toxic Fumes!

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