Supervisor angered by silence on Superfund deal

NASSAU–The federal Environmental Protection Agency has sent a letter to town Supervisor David Fleming in response to Mr. Fleming’s concerns about a settlement reached between the state Health Department (DOH) and Pace Analytical Services over erroneous water tests that included samples at the Dewey Loeffel Superfund Site. Mr. Fleming was distressed that he hadn’t learned of the settlement from either the EPA or the DOH.

The EPA says the water treatment operations at the plant are unaffected by the settlement.

Mr. Fleming, whose town includes the former Dewey Loeffel Landfill where 46,000 tons of toxic materials were dumped, wrote in his letter, a copy of which the EPA shared with The Columbia Paper, “The damage done to the credibility of EPA and DOH in handling this matter and failure on the part of your agencies is perceived as huge.” Mr. Fleming said he read about the settlement in “the Albany area newspaper.”

The Time Union published a story about settlement on September 23 by Rick Karlin, who obtained a copy of the settlement through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. The story said Pace Analytical, a Schenectady lab, tested the water at the former landfill site between 2006 and 2013 using the wrong type of solvent, an error that could have led to the company to produce incorrect reports on the presence of potentially hazardous materials.

The settlement of $525,000 was reached between Pace and the DOH. The EPA was not involved in the case. Emails to the DOH were not returned by deadline for this story.

In 2011 Dewey Loeffel was declared a federal Superfund Site. State agencies, including the health department, had been trying to contain and remediate some of the pollution both at the site and downstream along the Valatie Kill for several decades before the Superfund designation. The Valatie Kill runs through Columbia County downstream from Nassau.

From the mid-1950s to at least the late ’60s companies including GE and what is now called the SI group dumped toxic waste at the Dewey Loeffel site north of the Village of Nassau. After the Superfund site designation was declared three years ago, the EPA stepped in to oversee the construction of a filtration plant that treats polluted water from wells at and around the site and releases it into the Valatie Kill. The water treatment is part of a settlement reached with SI and GE.

The filtration plant started cleaning the water last winter. Treated water is stored in tanks, tested and then released, though the EPA hopes to move toward constant release program. The EPA has stressed that the filtration plant for the water is only one step in the clean-up of the site. Last February the agency held community meetings in both Kinderhook and Nassau about the filtration system. The EPA will have more information meetings about the clean-up of the site.

In his letter, Mr. Fleming wrote, “On behalf of the town of Nassau, I would like to be informed immediately of the impacts of this situation as they relate to the health and safety of our residents.”

The letter to Mr. Fleming from Judith Enck, regional administrator for the EPA, said, “Thousands of samples have been collected and analyzed at the Dewey Loeffel site. The EPA estimates that only a small fraction of the total number of samples collected at the Dewey Loeffel site are covered by the NYSDOH settlement with Pace.”

Ms. Enck said, “We are satisfied that the water treatment plant at the site is working properly and effectively, and that the basis for our decision-making in connection with the site is unaffected.”

The EPA regional administrator wrote that additional information about the settlement would have to come from the DOH.

For more information about the Dewey Loeffel Superfund Site, the EPA as a website at http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/dewey/.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

 

 

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