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EPA Places a Section of the Black River in Jefferson County, N.Y. on the Superfund List

Release Date: 09/27/2010
Contact Information: John Senn (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed a section of the Black River, which runs through the villages of Carthage and West Carthage in Jefferson County, NY, on its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The Black River empties into the eastern end of Lake Ontario.

Sediment in the river and along its banks is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other chemicals. PCBs, which can accumulate in the tissue of fish, may cause cancer and can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. The Black River is a popular location for recreation and fishing and people often eat the fish caught in the river.

“The Superfund designation will allow us to fully investigate the contaminated sediment in the river and take actions to address PCB and dioxin contamination,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Working closely with the communities along the river, which is a major recreational and economic resource, EPA will make every effort to see that the health of the Black River is restored."

Active and inactive paper mills, a machine shop, the Carthage/West Carthage sewage treatment plant, and a hydroelectric power plant are currently located along the Black River in the villages of Carthage and West Carthage. In February 2000, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) issued a report that evaluated the sediment in the Black River, its tributaries, and other tributaries discharging directly into the Eastern Lake Ontario drainage basin. The report identified the presence of PCB-contaminated sediment immediately downstream of the Carthage/West Carthage sewage treatment plant. As a follow-up to this study, NYSDEC issued another report that focused on the sediment contamination in the Black River and confirmed the presence of elevated levels of PCBs.

The state referred the site to EPA for further investigation in 2006, and the Agency subsequently collected sediment samples from the Black River, as well as along the banks. Results confirmed the presence of elevated levels of PCBs downstream of the historical and present locations of paper mills and other industrial facilities. In addition to PCBs, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins,and polychlorinated dibenzofurans were found in river sediments. The segment of the Black River that is being included on the Superfund list starts near the former and existing paper mills and continues downstream. A full investigation will now be conducted to determine the nature and extent of the contamination.


To date, there have been 1,627 sites listed on the Superfund National Priorities List. Of these sites, 345 sites have been deleted resulting in 1,282 sites currently on the NPL, including the seven new sites added today across the country. There are 61 proposed sites awaiting final agency action: 56 in the general Superfund section and five in the federal facilities section. There are a total of 1,343 final and proposed sites.

EPA today also added Newtown Creek in New York City to the Superfund National Priorities List, bringing the number of Superfund sites in New York state to 86. Two other sites in New York had previously been proposed for listing, and 26 sites across the state have been cleaned up and deleted from the Superfund list.

For more information about the site, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/blackriver/index.html. For more information on Superfund sites in New York state, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/cleanup/sites/.

To find out more about the EPA’s Superfund Process, visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2.

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