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January 31, 2012 - 7:08pm

Follow up: information from the EPA and DEC on situations in Le Roy

posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

When we contacted the Environmental Projection Agency regarding the Lehigh Valley Train Derailment Site, the EPA issued the following statement:

The EPA is aware of the parents and community’s concerns and we are working closely with the school district and all of the involved state agencies to give them information related to the Lehigh Valley Derailment Superfund site about four miles from the school.

While EPA is gathering information about actions that took place at the Lehigh site before the site became a federal Superfund site, we do not believe pollution from either site has impacted the school. As we gather all of the facts, we will keep the community, our state partners and the school district up to date. In addition, there is another Superfund site about 10 miles east of the school that EPA also believes has no impact on the school.

Groundwater that is under the site of the Superfund cleanup is carefully monitored. It flows away from, rather than toward, the school.

It appears that the drums shown on various news stories are drums containing dirt and rock from when wells were dug to monitor groundwater at the site. Most of these drums have been tested and contain material that is not hazardous and we are gathering more information about the balance. As part of its ongoing cleanup, EPA is taking steps to get these drums removed from the site as soon as possible.

On Monday, at the site, I learned that the contractor cleaning up the site is Unicorn Management Consultants. The website lists a number of remediation projects managed by Unicorn, but not the Lehigh site. We contacted Unicorn to try and acquire similar information as published on the website for other projects and we were told all inquiries were being handled by the EPA and only the EPA.

The EPA's maintains a website for the Superfund project.

We sent a series of follow-up questions to the EPA and below is what an EPA spokesman returned.

First, I suggest you take a look at a fact sheet we updated just yesterday: http://www.epa.gov/Region2/superfund/npl/0203481c.pdf

Next, here's supplemental info:

Q: Drums (editor's note: part of the question was why are the barrels labeled "Hazardous Material" if they only contain dirt and rock that isn't hazardous.)

There are drums on the Lehigh Valley Derailment Superfund site. In terms of the drums, they contain dirt and rock from when wells were dug to monitor groundwater at the site both under NYS DEC's investigation and more recently under EPA's. As part of the ongoing cleanup, EPA is taking steps to get these drums sampled and removed from the site as soon as possible.

There is a contractor for the potentially responsible party. (PRP means the entity liable for paying for the cleanup of a Superfund Site.) A subcontractor is currently handling the drum consolidation and the transportation to a licensed facility under EPA oversight.

Q: Also, could you please explain how EPA continues to track the plume?

Quarterly monitoring is conducted of the network of groundwater monitoring wells. Soil sampling was conducted to delineate the extent of the contamination.

Q: Where is the groundwater plume headed?

Southeast.

Q: Also, could you please explain the process of how, and how often, the EPA tests the contaminated site?

The groundwater is monitored. Soil on-site was sampled to delineate the extent of the contamination. The remedial design estimates that 8,000 cubic yards of soil need to be addressed.

Q: Can you tell me how long those drums have been there -- and the date of the last time they were tested?

In terms of the drums, they contain dirt and rock from when wells were dug to monitor groundwater at the site both under NYS DEC's investigation and more recently under EPA's. As part of the ongoing cleanup, EPA is taking steps to get these drums sampled and removed from the site as soon as possible.

There are approximately 108 drums (from the 1990s, NYS DEC oversight) on the site that have the drill cuttings (rocks, soils) from these wells. There are approximately 142 drums (from 2010, EPA oversight) that have drill cuttings from these wells.

Superfund process:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/cleanup/index.htm

While EPA is gathering information about actions that took place at the Lehigh site before the site became a federal Superfund site, we do not believe pollution from either site has impacted the school

We also contacted the NYS DEC, and received the following statement:

DEC has been monitoring the situation and staying in contact with NYSDOH and EPA. DEC plays a supporting role to these agencies as they have the primary jurisdiction. DOH is the agency that makes the determination if environmental testing is necessary and DEC would perform some of this testing. In addition, Lehigh Valley is an EPA Superfund site and DEC is in contact with EPA about the site.

I sent a series of follow up questions, and the spokeswoman said she referred the questions to the State Department of Health.

Neither the EPA nor the DEC have yet answered the question of when they were brought into the process by the school district.

A bit of history on the property: The property was acquired by the Buffalo and Geneva Railway Co. in 1890 and 1891 from John Maloney and Patrick Carney, which later merged with Lehigh Valley. Lehigh Valley went bankrupt in January 1970. The derailment was Dec. 6, 1970. Trustees assumed responsibility for the clean up. Trustees sold the property to the Northwoods Sportsman Club for $6,100 in 1979. The club acquired the rest of its property from a lady named Maloney in the 1950s (frankly, lost my note with the details).

Bea McManis
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Does anyone see something wrong with this explanation?
"There are approximately 108 drums (from the 1990s, NYS DEC oversight) on the site that have the drill cuttings (rocks, soils) form these wells. There are approximately 142 drums (from 2010, EPA oversight) that have drill cuttings from these wells."
...and
"EPA is taking steps to get these drums sampled and removed from the site as soon as possible."

I know the wheels of these agencies turn slowly, but isn't this just a tad too slow?

Judith Kinsley ...
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Joined: Aug 13 2008 - 3:57pm

Just watched Dr. Drew. They had footage of an "independent contractor" (a/k/a goons without enough sense to wear gloves when lifting the lids of barrels labeled hazardous) sent by the EPA to the site today. They peeked inside the leaking barrels, bought 15 coolers into the trailer on the site and left. Coolers? Progress?

Robert Walton
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Joined: Jun 4 2008 - 11:00am

I think that Leroy School officials are covering up problems of an enviromental concern at the school.

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