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Ammo, hazardous waste could be resting below Coliseum environs

Published reports say leftover munitions may be present in the ground under the Nassau Coliseum and surrounding acreage. The buried weapons could be leaking dangerous chemicals into the soil. Experts say some of the artillery has never been defused.

Unexploded weaponry may exist under the ground at the Nassau Coliseum.
Photo by Handout/Getty Images

The Coliseum sits atop what had been a multi-generational aviation manufacturing center and military facility, dating back to the days of George Washington. The property, previously known as Mitchel Field, after WWI hero John Mitchel, was purchased by Nassau County in the early 1960s. The Cradle of Aviation, Nassau Community College, Hofstra University, the Omni office building and the Long Island Marriott hotel are also located in the area.

According to a Newsday article by Emily C. Dooley, published Apr. 19, 2014, “8 former LI military sites may have hazardous waste, unexploded ordnance,” federal officials suggest major environmental problems could be lurking beneath more than half of Nassau and Suffolk’s “17 former military installations.” Newsday, which initially broke the story and is Long Island’s largest newspaper, points out there are more than “10,000 potential sites” across the country that have similar issues.

The Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the clean-up. Nevertheless, due to budgetary restrictions and a lean economy, there is no telling when the hidden weaponry will be removed from Uniondale. As reported, perchlorate, a chemical the EPA points out can disrupt the thyroid, may be leeching into the soil and groundwater around former military installations.

Threats from above and below

News of the unexploded ordinances is probably the last thing the Coliseum wants to hear. In 2012, OSHA officials found that “maintenance workers and electricians” at the arena “were exposed to asbestos or materials potentially containing asbestos.” The Coliseum was fined $88,000. Since then, several workers have filed claims of asbestos exposure.

It seems there are perils lying in wait both above and below the ground at the Nassau Coliseum. Will the hidden dangers impede the progress of the Coliseum’s renovation, which is planned to begin in 2015? Right now, nobody is saying.

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