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Environmental Investigation and Cleanup - Elmira High School

Project Name: Former Sperry Remington-North Portion, NYSDEC Project Number: C808022

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), State Department of Health (DOH) and Unisys Corporation (Unisys) held a public meeting on May 2, 2018. The presentation used at the meeting and a related fact sheet follow:

Earlier fact sheets and presentations are linked below. Additional documents related to the studies and cleanup can be found at the location(s) identified below under "For Additional Information."


The Former Sperry Remington Property - North Portion Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) Site #C808022 is approximately 34 acres and currently owned by the Elmira City School District. The site is comprised of the active Elmira High School (EHS). This property comprises the north portion of an original 83-acre parcel historically used for industrial activities, including typewriter manufacturing by Remington Rand.

In 1977, Remington Rand deeded the property to the Southern Tier Economic Growth Agency. The Southside High School (currently EHS) was built on the northern portion of the property in 1979; the southern portion remained in light industrial use.

Following an initial environmental investigation conducted by the New York State Departments of Health (DOH) and Environmental Conservation (DEC) between 2000 and 2003, Unisys entered into an Order on Consent with the State in 2014 to conduct a more extensive investigation. Unisys has completed more than 1000 soil borings across the site collecting multiple samples at various depths. Analytical results have identified polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as the primary contaminant of concern in soil. While work is underway to clean up the PCBs, protective cover systems (grass, pavement, buildings) reduce the risk of human exposure to PCBs in soils.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) including Trichloroethylene (TCE) have been detected in soil and groundwater. However, concentrations only slightly exceed the groundwater standard of 5 parts per billion at any monitoring well. To be clear, people are not drinking contaminated groundwater. The area is served by the city of Elmira's public water system, which is routinely tested and its finished water meets state standards.

In July 2014, Unisys conducted comprehensive air sampling (23 co-located points) under the EHS building slab, as well as indoors. Based on these sample results, Unisys installed a Sub-Slab Depressurization System (SSDS) to mitigate a portion of the "F" wing where soil vapor was impacted by TCE. Subsequent sampling has verified the system's continued effectiveness. The SSDS is similar to those currently operating under the gymnasium, science "K" wing and the new cafeteria expansion.

In addition, the school's Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems have been optimized to reduce the potential for soil vapor intrusion. The HVAC system is monitored quarterly, by measuring the pressure differential between sub-slab and indoor air. Based on pressure field testing results and ongoing indoor air sampling, the systems are operating properly and preventing potential exposures associated with soil vapor intrusion.

There are no current exposure pathways for students currently attending the school.

No PCBs were detected in the indoor air testing at EHS.

TCE sources, or grossly contaminated soil, have not been detected.

Development of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP)

The environmental investigation conducted by DOH and DEC from 2000 to 2003 found contamination in subsurface soil and groundwater. Subsequently, DOH wrote a Health Consultation assessing its findings and recommended that measures be taken to minimize the potential for human exposure to subsurface soils containing elevated concentrations of PCBs, PAHs, tetrachloroethene, and metals. DOH also wrote that such measures should include the development of a soil management to provide protocols for the proper handling of soil during ground intrusive activities, including activities that disturb material below paved areas and under buildings.

In response to this recommendation, the Elmira High School (formerly Southside High School) developed an EMP to maintain a protective site cover, operate mitigation systems to reduce the risk of exposure to sub-surface contamination, and monitor indoor air quality. The most recent indoor air sampling of Room 127 was conducted in December 2017, during heating season conditions.

Mercury Manifested from Elmira High School

In 2010, as part of a mercury abatement project of the gymnasium floor, contaminated material was identified and properly disposed of off-site. This issue is not unique to EHS. The historic use of mercury in gymnasium floors is a well-documented, national issue, unrelated to past industrial operations. Additional information about the mercury abatement project are described the EMP 2010 Annual Certification Report. While the tonnage was significant, this is largely attributed to the density of the concrete removed. Soil from below the building slab was also tested, removed, and disposed of as non-hazardous waste. In addition, during the restoration of the floor, a sub-slab depressurization system was installed to reduce the risk of soil vapor intrusion.

The mercury contaminated hazardous waste was managed/manifested by the Elmira City School District (ECSD) pursuant to the EMP. In accordance with the EMP, the ECSD provides DEC with copies of reported EMP activities, including the mercury abatement project.   

Current Project Status

In 2017, Unisys entered into an agreement under the State's Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) to complete a comprehensive environmental investigation and cleanup at the EHS property. Along with the additional investigation sampling, PCB soil removal measures are being conducted ahead of other EHS capital improvement projects.  This multi-year effort is expected to be completed in 2019. Work is being conducted by Unisys with strict DEC and DOH oversight.

Community air and dust monitoring is conducted during all excavation activities. Dust control measures (e.g., watering) will be undertaken to reduce dust on temporary dirt roadways and open excavations. If air monitors detect an exposure concern, work is stopped until corrective measures are in place.

Priority actions are those that mitigate the risk of exposure to environmental contaminants at EHS. "Interim remedial measures" are undertaken when any potential exposure scenario is noted. One such interim measure was undertaken by Unisys during 2017-site activities to remove an area of shallow soils with slightly elevated levels of PCBs from a portion of the track infield. Clean soils were imported to make up the top six inches of soil cover as temporarily restoration until the full extent of subsurface soil remediation in this area is completed in the future. Continuing adherence to the EMP ensures that protective site cover is maintained and indoor air quality is monitored for the safety of those using the property. Elements of the EMP will ultimately be integrated into a comprehensive Site Management Plan including oversight and reporting, at the conclusion of the BCP.

DEC, DOH and Unisys Corporation will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Elmira-Riverview, 760 E. Water Street, Elmira. The presentation will include details of the proposed PCB cleanup for the portion of EHS site between June and September 2018. In addition to this year's targeted PCB cleanup, Unisys will continue its investigation and delineation of contaminants of concern at other areas of the site and DEC and DOH will review new data as it becomes available.

If data indicates a potential risk for exposure, short-term response actions may be necessary and undertaken to mitigate risk while long term remedial strategies are developed. DEC will continue to keep the public informed throughout the investigation and cleanup of the site.

Public Involvement Activities

NYSDEC Fact Sheets

The links below provide access to Fact Sheets prepared by DEC:

NYSDEC held public meetings about the project in July 2015 and May 2017.

For Additional Information

Relevant project-related documents are available in a document repository:

Steele Memorial Library, Attn: Connie Ogilvie
101 East Church Street
Elmira, NY 14901
(607) 733-9175

For project-related questions, contact the NYSDEC Project Manager:
Tim Schneider, P.E.
Division of Environmental Remediation
6274 E. Avon-Lima Rd
Avon, NY 14414
(585) 226-5480

For health-related questions, please contact NYSDOH Project Manager:
Dawn Hettrick, P.E.
Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation
Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Rm#1787
Albany, NY 12237
(518) 402-7860

The Elmira Central School District maintains a web page with additional information:

The NYSDEC maintains a web page with additional information: