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Cleanup Work to Begin at Mercury Refining Superfund Site On Colonie/Guilderland Border; EPA to Hold September 16 Public Meeting on the $9 Million Cleanup Plan

Release Date: 09/12/2013
Contact Information: Larisa Romanowski, (518) 747-4389,

      (New York, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the cleanup of contaminated soil and sediment will begin next week at the Mercury Refining Superfund site, a mercury reclamation facility in the towns of Colonie and Guilderland, New York. Past waste disposal activities contaminated soil and storm water that drained off the site and into an unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek with mercury. Mercury can build up in the tissue of fish and other wildlife and pose a threat to people who eat them. Exposure to mercury can damage people’s nervous systems and harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune systems. EPA will begin excavating contaminated soil and removing it from the site later this month.

      “Mercury is a strong neurotoxin that can damage the nervous system and cause other health and environmental problems,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The EPA has insured that this waste site will be cleaned up and that the taxpayers will not bear the burden of addressing this legacy of toxic contamination.”

      The EPA will hold a public information session from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, September 16, 2013 at the William K. Sanford Town Library, Stedman Room, 629 Albany Shaker Road, Loudonville, NY. Project staff will be available at that time to discuss planned cleanup activities and answer questions.

      From about 1956 to 1998, Mercury Refining, Inc. used an industrial oven to recover mercury from mercury-containing materials, including batteries, thermometers, pressure regulators and dental amalgams. As a result of these activities, mercury-contaminated soil on site and mercury-contaminated stormwater drained off the site into an unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek. Mercury reclamation activities ended at the site in 1998. The recovery of some precious metals that do not contain mercury continues at the site today.

      The Mercury Refining site was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1983. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation oversaw various cleanup actions at the site until EPA assumed the lead for the cleanup in 1999.

      During the cleanup, approximately 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sediment will be excavated and properly disposed of off-site. During the first phase of the cleanup, contaminated soil at the surface, which is more easily accessible to people, will be excavated and taken to a disposal facility. All excavated areas will be filled with clean soil and re-planted with vegetation. The work is estimated to take about three months to complete. Efforts will be made to minimize site-related traffic during the work and health and safety procedures, including air monitoring around the work zone and site perimeter, will be in place to protect the surrounding community.

      The work this fall will also include the removal of contaminated sediment from a tributary to Patroon Creek. After water is removed from the excavated creek sediment, the sediment will be disposed of at a landfill.

      The second phase of the cleanup is expected to begin in spring 2014. Deeper contaminated soil and ground water will be treated using a technology that locks the mercury in a mixture of Portland cement and another agent, preventing it from moving into the surrounding soil and ground water. The EPA expects all cleanup work will be completed by fall 2014. The current owner, 26 Railroad Ave, Inc., will be responsible for land use restrictions at the site to ensure that the treated soil and ground water are not disturbed and that no drinking water wells are installed.

      The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. After sites are placed on the Superfund list of the country’s most contaminated hazardous waste sites, the EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups.

      The cleanup of the Mercury Refining Superfund site is being conducted and paid for by the parties responsible for the contamination, with oversight by the EPA. These companies are Gillette Company, KeySpan Gas East Corp., Energizer Battery Manufacturing, Inc., Union Carbide Corporation and Spectrum Brands, Inc. In addition, 19 federal agencies and 42 additional entities also responsible for the contamination were required to make payments into an escrow account to fund the cleanup work at the site. EPA has also entered into settlements with 315 additional entities that sent mercury-containing material to the site. These settlements provided for the payment of funds to reimburse EPA for costs it incurred at the site. The value of the cleanup work to be performed is estimated at $9.3 million.

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