VALATIE–The federal Environmental Protect Agency is releasing another 20,000 gallons of treated groundwater from the Dewey Loeffel Superfund site into the Valatie Kill this week. The week before last the agency authorized the release of about 40,000 from the tanks at a treatment plant at the site.
The EPA tests showed the water released contains no trace of PCBs and no trace or only amounts at “less than reporting limits” of the solvent 1,4 dioxane, classified by the agency as “probable human carcinogen.” Some metals, including mercury were detected at levels “well below” safety standards set by the state, EPA officials said.
Asked during a Tuesday, February 4 telephone press conference whether the EPA is testing for all of the hazardous chemicals known to be at the site, Project Manager Ben Conetta said that tests were conducted for “most, almost all” of the hazardous materials officials believe were dumped at closed industrial landfill. The EPA says that the materials dumped there include “industrial solvents, waste oils, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), scrap materials, sludge and solids… volatile organic compounds and other hazardous substances.”
The treatment plant, which was completed last November, is the first part of the cleanup at the site in the Rensselaer County Town of Nassau, where an estimated 46,000 tons of waste materials were dumped by several companies over almost 20 years starting in 1952. According the EPA website, in 1968, “after years of citizen complaints, documented downstream fish and cattle kills, and uncontrolled fires at the site, the State of New York ordered the operator to stop discharges from the disposal facility and perform cleanup work.” In 2011, following years of debate and some attempts by the state to contain the dumped materials, federal officials declared the Dewey Loeffel landfill a federal Superfund Site. GE and a company now called SI, both of which dumped the hazardous waste at the site, came to an agreement with the EPA in 2012 to remove the hazardous materials. The companies paid for the on-site treatment plant.
Mr. Conetta said this week that the full cleanup of the site would be a long process. Right now the EPA is collecting data. Treating the groundwater at the site is the beginning of the process, he said. Additional water tests and tests of the soil will be done later this year. “It’s going to be some time,” he said, estimating it would take two to three years for additional cleanup steps to start. The companies have already trucked some contaminated water and leachate–hazardous chemicals that have seeped from the site–to a decontamination facility in Connecticut.
As for the water being treated and released, several municipalities, including the Towns of Kinderhook and Chatham, the Village of Valatie and the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, have asked that no water be released into the Valatie Kill until a health study has been done. The Valatie Kill runs from the Town of Nassau south through Chatham and into Kinderhook Lake. The stream continues south of the lake to Valatie, where it joins Kinderhook Creek and the water eventually empties into the Hudson River at Stockport. Kinderhook Lake has, for years, been contaminated with PCBs, and there are state advisories warning people not to eat fish caught in the lake.
Mary Mears, deputy director public affairs and chief of the EPA’s Public Outreach Branch, said during this week’s press conference that a health study would have to be conducted by the state Health Department or other health agencies. “That would never be the EPA,” she said, though she stressed that the EPA would conduct human and environmental risk assessments to look at how the water treatment process is going.
Ms. Mears also responded to a question about a Village of Valatie municipal well that state and county health officials have said could be influenced by surface water. “That is zero percent related to our discharge,” she said.
Mr. Conetta, the Dewey Loeffel project manager, pointed out that the concerns about the influence of surface water on wells involves contamination from biological sources, not chemicals. He said his agency is collecting more information about that well, but added that the Valatie well is “13 miles away from where our discharge is.”
Right now the treatment plant at the Nassau site has four 20,000-gallon tanks designed to hold water from the treatment plant while it is tested prior to release. Ms. Mears said that in the next few weeks the EPA will authorize pumping the treated water directly into the Valatie Kill. The water previously held in three of the tanks has already been released into the Valatie Kill. The water in one of the tanks has not been approved for release.
The results of the testing are on the EPA website at www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/dewey/.
Ms. Mears said the EPA is working closely with the Nassau citizens group UNCAGED, (United Neighbors Concerned about General Electric and the Dewey Loeffel Landfill ), and the EPA has a Community Involvement Coordinator in Hudson, Larisa Romanowski, who can be contacted with questions at 518 747-4389 or . Ms. Mears said the agency has no plans for public meetings in this county.