Cayuga County Groundwater Contamination Site
(New York, N.Y. – April 8, 2013) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a plan to address contaminated ground water at the Cayuga County Ground Water Contamination Superfund site in Cayuga County, New York. Ground water at the site is contaminated with volatile organic compounds, which can cause serious damage to people’s health and the environment.
The EPA held a public meeting in Union Springs, New York on August 2, 2012 to explain the ground water cleanup plan. The EPA accepted public comment for 60 days and considered public input before finalizing the plan.
The General Electric Company owned and manufactured semiconductors at a facility on Genesee Street in the city of Auburn, which is the major source of the contamination polluting the area ground water. For a time, Powerex, Inc., a joint venture of GE and others, bought the facility and conducted similar operations there. These companies have been identified as parties potentially responsible for the contamination at the Cayuga site, and the EPA expects that they will be responsible for the cost of the cleanup.
The site contains contaminated ground water that covers approximately 4.8 square miles extending from Auburn to the Village of Union Springs within portions of the townships of Aurelius, Fleming and Springport. The site was added to the federal Superfund list in 2002.
The final cleanup plan divides the ground water beneath the site into three areas. For Area 1, which is the most contaminated area, the EPA will use bioremediation, a technique that involves adding chemicals and biological enhancements to the ground water to promote the breakdown of the volatile organic compounds. The specific type of chemical and process to be used will be determined by the EPA as part of the design of the cleanup.
For Area 2 of the ground water, which contains lower levels of volatile organic compounds, the EPA will use natural processes to reduce the level of contamination to meet ground water standards. The EPA is requiring periodic collection and analysis of ground water samples to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining.
The EPA is deferring a decision on how to clean up the ground water in Area 3. The EPA will do further investigation of that area prior to issuing a final cleanup decision.
An important aspect of the long-term cleanup of ground water at the Cayuga Ground Water Contamination site involves a cleanup by GE, overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, at the former Powerex facility. Successful completion of the ground water cleanup at the former Powerex facility is essential to achieving the full benefits of the EPA’s cleanup plan. New York and the EPA are coordinating closely in their cleanup efforts.
Superfund is the federal cleanup program established by Congress in 1980 to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous sites. The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. When sites are placed on the Superfund list, the EPA looks for parties responsible for the pollution and requires them to pay for the cleanups. Cleanups are only funded by taxpayer dollars when those responsible for the pollution cannot be found or are not financially viable.
In this instance, the EPA has spent about $10 million on the cleanup to-date. The EPA will require that the cleanup be carried out and paid for by those responsible for the contamination at the site. The estimated cost of the EPA’s cleanup plan is $20 million.
For more information on the Cayuga County Ground Water Contamination Superfund site, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/cayuga.