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DEC says IBM will pay millions for proposed site cleanup in Endicott

ENDICOTT (WBNG) — Dozens came with questions and concerns to Tuesday night’s public hearing about the future cleanup of the former IBM site. It focused on operable unit (OU) one and two, which the DEC says has contamination that requires monitoring.

“It’s to address where the old spills were,” said Kevin Farrar who works in the Division of Environmental Remediation within the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. He said OU1 and OU2 is where manufacturing buildings were.

The DEC’s remedial action objectives include preventing contact with contaminants in the future and continuing to reduce levels within the area.

Of four options ranging from no action, which the DEC said has to be examined, to advanced remedial actions of contamination, the DEC suggested option three which includes, enhanced groundwater extraction, site cover and vapor mitigation. The only difference from option four is the lack of enhanced biodegradation.

The Department of Health said that the determined proposed remedy is protective of public health. It’s estimated worth is almost $8 million.

Farrar said, “IBM the responsible party,” would pay for the remedial work.

We reached out to IBM on Tuesday night, but have yet to hear back.

The site is listed by the DEC as one that is a significant threat to public heath or the environment. 

The DEC said groundwater and soil was contaminated at the former IBM site from an unknown amount of chemicals leaked from tanks and pipes in the 1970’s. While Farrar said contamination levels have gone down significantly, on “99 percent of the site, there’s still chemicals that needs to be monitored. That includes:

  • PCE (tetrachloroethene or perchloroethylene)
  • TCE (trichloroethene)
  • TCA (1,1,1-trichloroethane)

The Department of Health links TCE exposure to potential health risks in the liver, kidneys, immune and/or nervous system.

In Tuesday’s presentation, Julia Kenney of the Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation within the state’s Department of Health (NYDOH) said that there are no health concerns if you are not exposed to these chemicals.

She said that the public water supply isn’t being impacted by the contaminated groundwater, and therefore isn’t being ingested. Kenney also said that contact with soil is unlikely since buildings and pavement are on top of it on an active industrial site.

Farrar said the active buildings keep crews from investigating the soil below.

As far as soil vapor intrusion, which is when chemicals are evaporated from the contaminated soil into buildings above, that is being controlled, according to the DEC and NYDOH.

Kenney said systems similar to radon detectors are monitoring the air in the buildings before it’s released into the radiant air. When asked when the last time the radiant air was tested, Kenney said in 2005 and 2006.

“The ambient air back then was acceptable so in worst case conditions if ambient was acceptable then we don’t need to continue to monitor it,” said Farrar. 12 News suggested if the public is concerned with ambient air data results near the site, if testing can be done. Farrar said he’ll bring back those requests to his managers.

Farrar explained through “science” that since concentrations in contaminants have reduced overtime on the site, the radiant air would not have gotten worse.

Farrar said a final decision will be made early next month, after hearing the public’s concerns on Tuesday.

When asked why clean up is taking so long, the DEC it’s not an easy process and it could be an indefinite issue.

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Michael Schwartz

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