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PCB-Contaminated Stream Near Dewey Loeffel Landfill To Be Remediated

EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez speaks in Nassau, NY
Lucas Willard
EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez speaks in Nassau, NY

Work will begin this summer as part of ongoing remediation efforts at a contaminated landfill in Rensselaer County. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided an update in the Town of Nassau Tuesday night.

Closed in the 1960s, the Dewey Loeffel Landfill in Nassau was used as a dumping ground for industrial waste. Today, it remains contaminated with PCBs and a number of volatile organic compounds.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took over remediation efforts at the site in 2011, which was previously a New York State Superfund.

Nassau Town Supervisor Dave Fleming is just one of several residents frustrated with the slow progress at the site.

“We’ve now spent over a decade with fish being contaminated, the food chain being contaminated because that original attempt at remediation failed. So now we’re going to do a second remediation of a very small stream, a real small component of what the contamination is,” said Fleming.

The landfill collected waste from General Electric, the Bendix Corporation, Schenectady Chemicals, and other companies. The site is close to streams and wetlands. Fishing remains restricted in the Valatie Kill and Nassau Lake.

The State of New York ordered the closure and cleanup of the site in 1968.

In the early 80s, GE entered an agreement to investigate and remediate the site. Waste was removed from the landfill and a slurry wall was built around the landfill, where a clay cap was installed. Work continued under the state referred the project to the EPA in 2009.  It was named a federal Superfund in 2011.

In 2012, GE and company SI group began working with EPA. The companies constructed a facility to treat contaminated groundwater. Sampling and monitoring work has continued. Some nearby residents are living with bottled water or have had point-of-entry water treatment systems installed on their homes.

EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez, speaking at an information session Tuesday, acknowledged the lengthy remediation process.

“It is slow-moving but it’s very comprehensive. Many of these situations are highly complex. And every situation, of course, is different,” said Lopez.

On Tuesday, EPA announced that it would oversee cleanup on a stream near the landfill. Again, Administrator Lopez.

“We’re focusing on PCB’s today. We’ve had some conversation about 1,4-Dioxane and that’s been a common discussion with the county legislature. But in this case we’re focusing on the PCB remediation,” said Lopez.

High concentrations of PCBs, the same chemical dredged from the Hudson River, have been found in an unnamed tributary dubbed T11A leading from the landfill. The small stream flows into the Valatie Kill, which flows into Nassau Lake.

GE is in the process of selecting a contractor to remove polluted sediment from T11A. Work is expected to begin this summer and continue for 3 to 4 months. 

Investigation into and monitoring groundwater for the spread of other pollutants with names like 1, 4-Dioxane, benzyne, and TCE is ongoing.

Mark Behan is a spokesperson for GE.

“We cooperated with New York State when New York State was the lead on this and we’re cooperating with EPA now,” said Behan.

A number of residents attended Tuesday’s meeting in a hot, humid community room at a local church.

Several have come together in the past to pressure the government to clean up the site. Kelly Travers-Main organized a group called UNCAGED.  She said several of her neighbors have fallen ill over the years. 

“Too many of us. And the biggest concentration of different types of cancers is right here at Morey Park, which is at the mouth of the lake,” said Travers-Main.

Travers-Main is referring to the Morey Park area just over the Nassau line in the Town of Schodack. Morey Park Road runs along the north end of Nassau Lake and ends close to the Valatie Kill.

A grassroots effort collected information about various illnesses in the community. The illnesses were mapped and a map of the region with several colored pins was hung in the local library. It’s now in town hall.

EPA gave a brief presentation about Community Action Groups, or CAG, which the agency does not form but uses to gather input from stakeholders.

Travers-Main is interested in forming a CAG, in particular to inform newcomers.

“If we can open up the CAG and EPA put out there that we’re looking for community members to join in on what’s going on, I think that’s a really good thing,” said Travers-Main.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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