EPA plans stream cleanup at Superfund site

NASSAU–The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held an information session earlier this month with residents of southern Rensselaer County over concerns that contamination is continuing to spread from the 19-acre federal Superfund toxic waste site known as the Dewey Loeffel Landfill.

The primary goal of the meeting was to address what the EPA dubbed phase one of a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study, which began in the fall of 2015. EPA officials will soon begin work on the removal of contaminated soil and sediment in a 1,900-foot stream located near the landfill, titled Tributary 11A. The tributary contains elevated levels of PCBs and flows into the Valatie Kill, and eventually empties into the Hudson River.

When asked by a member of the community where the contaminated soil and sediment would be removed to, Joseph Battipaglia, the Remedial Project Manager answered, “We don’t know yet.”

Another resident lamented, “Foolish consistency may be the result of this.”

The landfill was used by the General Electric Company and other industrial firms from 1952-1968, to bury 46,000 tons (92 million pounds) of industrial waste. Among the chemicals from GE dumped at the site, which had no provisions to contain the materials, are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The EPA classifies PCBs as a possible cause of cancer and the chemicals are known to impair growth, intellectual ability in humans and adversely impair the human immune system and harm the development of fetuses. Making PCBs was banned in the U.S, in 1977.

According to documents provided at the meeting the EPA completed an onsite water treatment facility three years ago and began pumping water from test wells at the landfill, filtering the water to remove toxins. Prior to the involvement of the EPA the state Department of Environmental Conservation drained nearby Nassau Lake and removed soil from the lake bottom in an effort to reduce the presence of PCBs in the lake.

Darlene Eagle, who attended the meeting and has lived around Nassau Lake for 29 years said, “I didn’t even know they did this.”

The EPA has held annual meetings at St. Mary’s Church Parish Hall since around 2010. The landfill was officially designated a federal Superfund site in 2011. Mr. Battipaglia, the remedial project manager, said the evaluation of the cleanup processes would be finished sometime around 2021.

Overall 27 household wells of residents closest to the “plume” of contamination escaping the site have been affected. The EPA has provided some of these citizens with bottled water dating back to the 1990s.

In closing, community involvement coordinator Larisa Romanowski suggested members of the community could form a Community Advisory Group, an informal group that would serve to voice concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process directly to the source.

To read more about Superfund sites go to the report “This is a Superfund: a Community Guide to EPA’s Superfund Program,” https://semspub.epa.gov/work/HQ/175197.pdf

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