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EPA Finalizes Changes to Cleanup Plan to Address VOCs at the Olean Well Field Superfund Site on the Alleghany River in Cattaraugus County in New York

Release Date: 10/07/2014
Contact Information: Michael Basile, (716) 551-4410,

      (New York, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a revised plan to address contaminated soil and groundwater at the former Alcas Cutlery Corporation facility (now known as the Cutco facility) at the Olean Well Field Superfund site in Olean, New York. Soil and groundwater at the facility are contaminated with volatile organic compounds, which are often found in paint, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleaners, disinfectants, automotive products and dry cleaning fluids. Some volatile organic compounds can cause cancer. The extent and nature of potential health effects depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure to the pollution. The final plan announced today changes a prior long-term cleanup plan and also announces a cleanup plan for a parcel of land south of the facility which was not addressed by previous plans. The actions are intended to speed up the cleanup of the groundwater at the Olean Well Field site. The plan calls for the soil and groundwater to be treated to break down the contaminants.

      EPA held a public meeting in Olean, New York on August 5, 2014 to explain the revised cleanup plan. EPA accepted public comment for 30 days and considered the public’s input before finalizing the plan.

      The Olean Well Field site is a 1.5 square-mile area located in Cattaraugus County that contains 53 wells, homes, and facilities with manufacturing operations. The Allegheny River and two of its tributaries, the Olean and Haskell Creeks, flow through the site. Previous industrial operations contaminated the soil and groundwater with volatile organic compounds. The site was added to the Superfund list in 1983. The former Alcas Cutlery facility, which currently houses Cutco, an active cutlery manufacturing business, was one of the manufacturing operations which impacted the site.

      The final cleanup plan announced today addresses the Alcas portion of the Olean site. Additional studies performed at the Alcas area had revealed that there is contamination beneath the main manufacturing building, which was not known at the time EPA made its original clean up decision. Due to this additional contamination, the cleanup plan that the EPA originally selected was not sufficiently protective of human health and the environment and the Agency therefore evaluated other cleanup options.

      The new EPA cleanup plan, finalized today, calls for a combination of cleanup measures. The groundwater in the vicinity of the facility will be treated by injecting chemicals into the ground to transform the contaminants into less harmful chemical compounds such as water and carbon dioxide, a process known as chemical oxidation. The additives are pumped into the groundwater at different depths targeting polluted areas. The new plan also calls for excavation of soil from beneath the main building if the EPA determines it is necessary. In making the determination, the EPA will consider such factors as whether or not the chemical oxidation process achieves cleanup objectives, and also the use of the building.

      The final plan also requires the application of non-hazardous additives, such as lactate or vegetable oil, to the groundwater in the newly identified area along the southern portion of the former Alcas Cutlery Corporation property to promote the breakdown of contaminants. The specific types of additives to be used will be determined by the EPA as part of the design of the cleanup. The groundwater will be monitored for several years after the cleanup goals have been met to demonstrate that the groundwater is no longer a
      source of contamination to the municipal wells

      Finally, the cleanup plan requires restrictions on how the site can be used in the future to ensure that activities at the site do not interfere with the cleanup. Groundwater use at the site has already been restricted until it meets water quality standards.

      EPA will conduct a review within five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup.
      The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites that are placed on the Superfund list and it seeks to hold those parties accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. The parties responsible for contamination at the former Alcas Cutlery Corporation facility are performing the cleanup activities under an agreement with EPA. The estimated cost of EPA’s cleanup plan is $2.5 million.

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