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EPA Finalizes Plan for Next Phase of Cleanup at Jefferson County, New York Toxic Site, Which has Contaminated Public Water Supply

Release Date: 04/20/2012
Contact Information: Mike Basile, 716-551-4410, basile.michael@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plan to demolish a building, dig up contaminated soil and sediment, and treat the ground water at the Crown Cleaners of Watertown, Inc. Superfund site in Herrings, New York. The soil and sediment are contaminated with volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and the ground water is contaminated with volatile organic compounds from past operations at this former paper bag manufacturing, laundry and dry cleaning facility. In January 2012, the EPA held a public meeting in the area and encouraged the public to provide input on the proposed cleanup plan for the site.

Many volatile organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals and can cause cancer in people. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or other organic substances and can cause cancer.

“EPA’s work at the site during the next phase of the cleanup is a step forward in our effort to protect the health of people who live or work near this abandoned facility,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Removing contaminated materials and cleaning up the ground water will reduce the health risks from this site.”

The EPA will demolish the main building on the nine-acre property and dig up contaminated soil adjacent to the building and sediment from wetland areas to the west. Because volatile organic compounds have the ability to move down through the soil and contaminate ground water, all of the excavated soil that is contaminated with volatile organic compounds will be sent to a licensed off-site disposal facility. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons remain bound to soil and will not impact the ground water. Soil contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons will be properly managed on-site in part by covering them with clean soil. All of the excavated areas will be filled and covered with clean soil.

EPA will treat the contaminated ground water in the source area using chemicals called oxidants. Any wetlands that are disturbed will be restored. The plan also requires restrictions that will prevent activities that could disturb the cleaned up areas and will prohibit any future residential construction on the property. EPA will carefully oversee operations and monitor future activities on the site.

From 1890 until the 1960s, the site was used by the St. Regis Paper Company to produce paper bags. In the late 1970s, the property was purchased by Crown Cleaners of Watertown, Inc. and was operated until 1991 as a dry cleaning and laundry facility. Wastewater was discharged through the foundation walls into the ground. Used dry cleaning machine filters were dumped on the site property. In 1991, the state of New York discovered that the Village of Herrings’ public water supply well was contaminated and subsequently installed a treatment system for the village drinking water well to protect public health. In 2001, to address the immediate problems posed by the site, EPA secured the property, removed numerous sources of contamination inside the main building, including contaminated sludge and debris, 5,000 gallons of waste oil and asbestos-containing material, and demolished an unstable portion of the main building and a large smoke stack. The site was added to the federal Superfund list in 2002.

The EPA does an extensive search to identify and locate the parties potentially responsible for the contamination at all sites on the Superfund list. The agency requires responsible parties to pay for or perform the cleanup work with EPA oversight. The majority of Superfund cleanups are performed by or paid for by polluters. Taxpayer dollars are used to cover EPA cleanup costs when no responsible party can be identified. In this instance, the EPA will spend about $7 million in cleanup costs.

The EPA has a web page about the site at http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/crowncleaners/index.html

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