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EPA to Hold Public Meeting on the Cayuga County Ground Water Contamination Superfund site in Cayuga County, New York; Protecting Drinking Water EPA Priority

Release Date: 07/18/2012
Contact Information: Mike Basile, 716-551-4410, basile.michael@epa.gov

      (New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up contaminated ground water at the Cayuga County Ground Water Contamination Superfund site located in Cayuga County, New York. The General Electric Company (GE) owned and manufactured semiconductors at a facility on Genesee Street in the City of Auburn. For a time, Powerex, Inc., a joint venture of GE and others, bought the facility and conducted similar operations there. These companies have been identified as parties potentially responsible for the Cayuga site. Ground water at the site is contaminated with volatile organic compounds, which can cause serious damage to people’s health and the environment. The proposed plan calls for bioremediation of one area of ground water and natural processes for two other areas to reduce the contaminants in the ground water to meet federal and state standards. The EPA will hold a public meeting on August 2, 2012 to explain the proposed plan and is encouraging public comments. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Union Springs High School, Union Springs, N.Y., 13160. Comments will be accepted until August 16, 2012.

      The site includes contaminated ground water that covers approximately 4.8 square miles extending from Auburn to the Village of Union Springs within portions of the townships of Aurelius, Fleming and Springport. The site contains mostly residential properties mixed with farmland, woodlands and commercial areas. Many area homes get their drinking water from public drinking water supply wells. Routine testing in 1988 of the Village of Union Springs’ municipal water supply showed that the water contained volatile organic compounds that can negatively impact health. Cayuga county installed a treatment system on the public water supply. The New York State Department of Conservation and the EPA investigated and determined that 51 private residential wells in the area were also contaminated with volatile organic compounds. In 2000, the EPA began supplying bottled water to affected residents while the EPA provided treatment systems in the homes and at three area farms. Later, all but one of the homes sampled by the EPA and impacted by the site were connected to the public water system and no longer get their drinking water from private wells. The EPA continues to maintain the treatment systems at the three dairy farms and the residence.

      The site was added to the federal Superfund list in 2002. The EPA conducted an in-depth investigation of the extent of the contamination in order to determine how best to clean it up over the long term. Today’s proposed plan is a result of those investigations.

      The EPA’s cleanup proposal divides the site ground water into three areas for planning purposes. For Area 1, which is located immediately south of the former Powerex facility, the agency will use bioremediation. Bioremediation involves adding chemicals to the ground water to promote the breakdown of the pollutants. The specific type of chemical and process to be used will be determined by the EPA as part of the design of the cleanup. Once the additive is selected and the process begun, the EPA will collect samples to confirm that the bioremediation is effective.

      For the two remaining areas of ground water contamination, the EPA is proposing to rely on natural processes that are already reducing the levels of contamination and are expected to reduce the level of contamination in the ground water without an active treatment system. These areas are Area 2, located immediately south-southwest of Area 1, and Area 3 located south and southwest of Area 2. Area 1 has the highest levels of contamination followed by Area 2 and Area 3. In order for natural processes, referred to technically as natural attenuation, to work quickly and completely enough, the right conditions must exist underground. In this case, the EPA believes the right conditions exist in Areas 2 and 3. The EPA is requiring periodic collection and analysis of ground water samples to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining.

      In addition, an important aspect of the long-term cleanup of ground water at the Cayuga Ground Water Contamination site involves cleanup actions being conducted by GE and overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at the former Powerex facility, which is the major source of the contamination impacting the area ground water. Successful completion of the cleanup of the ground water at the former Powerex facility is important to the full realization of the benefits of the EPA’s proposed cleanup plan. New York and the EPA are working closely in their cleanup efforts.

      Superfund is the federal cleanup program established by Congress in 1980 to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous sites. The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. When sites are placed on the Superfund list, the EPA looks for parties responsible for the pollution and requires them to pay for the cleanups. Cleanups are only funded by taxpayer dollars when those responsible for the pollution cannot be found or are not financially viable. In this instance, the EPA has spent about $10 million in response costs, to date, primarily on investigations and studies and will be seeking to have the cleanup carried out by those responsible for the contamination at the Site. The estimated cost of the EPA’s proposed plan is $24.4 million.

      Written comments may be mailed or emailed to:
      Isabel R. Rodrigues, Remedial Project Manager
      U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
      290 Broadway, 20th Floor
      New York, New York 10007-1866
      Telephone: (212) 637-4248
      rodrigues.isabel@epa.gov

      For more information on the Cayuga County Ground Water Contamination Superfund site, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/cayuga.

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