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Village of Endicott Environmental Investigations

Background Information

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were used as solvents in manufacturing operations at the 140-acre industrial facility formerly owned by IBM and located in the Village of Endicott and the Town of Union in New York. Releases of chemicals to the environment occurred at the site as a result of spills, leaks from tanks and pipelines, and past material handling practices by IBM, IBM's predecessors, and Endicott-Johnson shoe factories which occupied portions of the site. As a result, groundwater beneath the site was contaminated by these compounds, and has migrated off the site, raising potential impacts to drinking water aquifers. Further, when contaminated groundwater migrates underneath buildings, solvent vapors can affect indoor air quality.

Groundwater Contamination and Remediation

In 1979, IBM Endicott reported a spill of 4,100 gallons of the solvent TCA (trichloroethane), a commonly-used VOC. Subsequent investigations by IBM following this spill revealed a larger plume containing other industrial solvents including TCE (trichloroethene), PCE (tetrachloroethene, also called perchloroethylene or perc), and Freon 113, as well as the natural breakdown products of these primary solvents. Other VOCs have also been found in groundwater at the site, but in much smaller quantities and over more limited areas. Groundwater remediation and monitoring began immediately following the 1979 spill and continue today.

The primary site-related contaminants are TCA, TCE, PCE, and their breakdown products. The degree of contamination is highest in the vicinity of the manufacturing complex along the railroad between Watson Boulevard and North Street and diminishes with distance from the plant site. Groundwater flow transports the contamination to off-site areas south of the plant, with lower levels of contamination extending as far as the Susquehanna River. TCA makes up the bulk of the site-related contamination (greater than 90 percent), but is now largely confined to on-site areas. TCE, while making up only a few percent of the contaminant mass, is more widespread in off-site areas south of North Street. PCE is found in a few fairly localized areas on site and in nearby off-site areas along North Street. PCE, which is also a dry-cleaning solvent, was found at the site of a former dry cleaner that IBM purchased in 1985, the former Ideal Cleaners located on North Street at Arthur Avenue, which is now a parking lot. However, PCE contamination has been largely eliminated in this area following IBM's remediation of the Ideal Cleaners site.

Shortly after the discovery of contamination in 1979, IBM began remediating groundwater using 'pump-and-treat' technology to extract the groundwater and to treat it to remove the contamination. The program currently consists of twenty extraction wells located in both on-site and off-site areas. Five standalone groundwater treatment facilities are operated by IBM to treat the extracted groundwater. Since 1979, over 815,000 pounds of contaminants have been removed, and a few thousand pounds continue to be removed each year, nearly 95 percent of which comes from on-site areas along the railroad corridor.

In addition to groundwater extraction and treatment, IBM has implemented other remedial technologies in order to accelerate the cleanup. These include clean-water injections and thermal treatment of contaminant source areas.

The clean-water injection program began in 2008. The purpose of clean-water injections is to flush residual contamination in the ground toward the extraction wells. The system currently consists of eight injection wells. Seven are located in the off-site area between North Street and Main Street south of the plant, and one is located on site near the railroad corridor. Most of the injected water is from IBM's extraction and treatment program in which extracted groundwater is re-injected into the subsurface after it is treated to remove contaminants. Municipal water is also sometimes used to supplement the injections when needed. The program is proving to be effective. Large areas of the off-site groundwater plume south of North Street now meet applicable groundwater standards. The program will continue for some time, however, because residual contaminants continue to 'stick' to soil particles in the aquifer. Additional flushing is needed to remove this residual contamination until there is not enough remaining in or on soil particles to cause re-contamination of the groundwater.

Thermal treatment is used to remove contamination from source areas. When contamination is removed from a source area, it can no longer feed a down-gradient plume. And once the source is eliminated, down-gradient plumes typically shrink as natural processes break down the contaminants in the plume. The technology uses heating elements placed in the ground to vaporize contaminants in the treatment area. The contaminant vapors are collected by a vacuum system and then run through treatment systems to remove the contaminants from the vapor stream. This technology was used by IBM to effectively remediate contaminant source areas in the Ideal Cleaners Area and in the Building 57 Area.

Implementation of remedial technologies, either as interim measures or as final remedies, has resulted in significant progress in reducing contamination in groundwater. Following are a few examples to illustrate the progress.

Off-Site Plume South of North Street

The widespread plume of TCE extending south of North Street from the plant site resulted in a vapor intrusion issue for properties located above the plume (see discussion below). In 2004, at the State's direction, IBM implemented an accelerated program to reduce this plume as quickly as possible. An aggressive combination of groundwater extraction and treatment and clean water injections was used, and continues to be used, to shrink the plume. As the program was enhanced and expanded, evidence of significant progress began to emerge. Steady reductions in contaminant concentrations were observed throughout the plume and, beginning in 2010, the plume began to become fragmented as areas of the plume were cleaned up to meet groundwater standards. Each successive round of data since then has shown larger areas of the plume that now meet applicable groundwater standards.

Former Ideal Cleaners Area

Thermal treatment was used in 2010 to remove the source of PCE contamination that resulted in a plume of PCE and its breakdown products that extended from the former dry cleaner on North Street southward to Monroe Street. Following removal of the source, most of the components of the plume degraded fairly rapidly and have been eliminated from the plume or are found only in one or two isolated locations and at significantly lower concentrations. A single remaining breakdown product remains in a smaller residual plume, but at greatly reduced concentrations. As a result, several extraction wells that were intercepting the plume were no longer needed and were able to be turned off. DEC expects that natural degradation of the remnants of the plume will continue.

Building 57 Area

Following completion of thermal treatment at the Ideal Cleaners site, IBM proposed implementing a similar technology in the Building 57 Area at Hayes Avenue north of the railroad. In 2012, with DEC approval, IBM used thermal treatment to remove contamination from four source areas in soil beneath and around Building 57A. The source areas had a combination of TCA, TCE, PCE, and Freon contamination in the soil. All four contaminant source areas were effectively eliminated by the thermal treatment and DEC expects the residual groundwater plumes to degrade naturally over time. Until then, an extraction well will continue to operate in this area to remove contaminated groundwater.

Northwest Area

The Northwest Area is located along Clark Street between Oak Hill Avenue and Robble Avenue. This area was used extensively by both Endicott-Johnson and IBM for chemical and petroleum storage and handling and waste treatment. It is still used by the current site owner for those purposes today. Contamination in groundwater predated IBM's acquisition of the property in 1982 and included TCA, TCE, PCE, and toluene (a component of gasoline and fuel oil). Shortly after buying the property, IBM implemented several interim remedial measures (IRMs) including excavating contaminated soil and installing a groundwater extraction and treatment system. Together, these IRMs have resulted in a significant decline in groundwater contamination. Most of the area now meets or is approaching applicable standards for groundwater. As a result, one of the two extraction wells in this area was shut down, with DEC approval, in 2012. The second extraction well continues to operate, but its use may no longer be necessary. A test is scheduled for mid-2014 to observe the effects of a temporary shutdown.

Soil Vapor Contamination and Vapor Intrusion

In 2002 DEC directed IBM to investigate the potential for contaminant vapors to migrate from groundwater through the soil into buildings above. The results of the investigation (known as the Groundwater Vapor Project) indicated that vapor migration had resulted in detectable levels of contaminants in indoor air in structures, including off-site locations, in the Village of Endicott and Town of Union. TCE is the primary contaminant of concern with respect to indoor air.

The investigation proceeded in phases, starting in the area where concentrations of solvents in the off-site groundwater plume were greater, and moving to areas where the concentrations were lower. IBM began installing vapor mitigation systems (similar to radon mitigation systems) in affected buildings in 2003 while the investigation was progressing. By 2004, IBM, DEC, and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) defined an impacted area that included approximately 480 structures on 569 properties in the Village of Endicott and the Town of Union. Property owners with structures on their properties were offered mitigation systems to intercept the contaminant vapors, and mitigation systems were installed on all structures where the property owner accepted the offer. For owners in the affected area who declined a mitigation system, IBM is required to re-offer mitigation on an annual basis. IBM inspects and maintains all mitigation systems that they have installed, and they reimburse property owners for the electrical costs to operate the systems. IBM is also required to track those properties within the defined area of impact where no structures exist. If a structure is to be built on the property, IBM must offer mitigation to the owner.

In 2005, DEC and DOH evaluated 42 former IBM buildings on site for vapor intrusion. Based on the results, the agencies concluded that there were no significant exposure risks to current site workers from vapor intrusion, and that continued progress on the site cleanup would reduce any potential exposure risks even further. Follow-up sampling was conducted in late 2011 and the results confirmed the agencies' 2005 conclusions.

IBM Endicott Consent Order

In September 2004, DEC and IBM entered into a formal consent order that requires IBM to investigate and remediate contamination associated with its former plant operations in the Village of Endicott and Town of Union.

The consent order requires IBM to conduct supplemental remedial investigations and focused feasibility studies for seven areas (called 'Operable Units') to identify and evaluate previously unknown or insufficiently evaluated potential sources of pollution at and in the vicinity of the site, and to develop and implement appropriate cleanup measures.

Interim remedial measures were implemented to immediately address known environmental contamination at and in the vicinity of the site. An IRM is a set of planned actions that can be conducted without extensive investigation and evaluation and is designed to be part of the final remedy for a site. The consent order gives DEC the authority to require additional IRMs as appropriate.

Most of these IRMs - as well as others as directed by DEC - have been completed or are ongoing, and investigations continue in some areas. Final remedies have been selected, with input from the public, for the Bedrock Plume (known as Operable Unit No. 6) and the Ideal Cleaners Area (known as Operable Unit No. 4). IRMs have been implemented, and significant remedial progress has been made in the remaining Operable Units. DEC anticipates that final remedies will be proposed for these areas as investigations are completed and the effectiveness of the IRMs is assessed. The public will be invited to review and comment on these proposals, and to provide input into selection of the final remedies.

DEC Endicott Area Wide Study

Though IBM has accepted responsibility for much of the solvent contamination in Endicott, they have correctly pointed out that other industries that have existed in Endicott during the 20th century may have contributed to the groundwater contamination. To determine what other industries may have contaminated the aquifer besides IBM, DEC undertook a large comprehensive study of the area, calling it the Endicott Area Wide Study.
The Endicott Area Wide Study further defined the extent of soil gas and groundwater contamination in the upper aquifer west of Jefferson Avenue and east of Arthur Avenue in Endicott. The study also investigated other areas to the north, west and east of the IBM solvent plume.

As part of the study, DEC completed several rounds of indoor air sampling between the winters of 2003-2004 and 2010-2011. The Department also completed a study of the Old Village Dump, augmenting a study conducted in the 1990's, and found no connection between the dump and groundwater contamination further down gradient. This study also included extensive soil gas testing and indoor air testing in and around the Jennie F. Snapp Middle School. DEC completed an investigation of Creative Printing in the village of Endicott to determine if it was a source of groundwater contamination. DEC investigated many former and/or current industrial properties in Endicott that may have used solvents. The investigation began during the summer of 2005 and was performed in seven different phases. Those seven phases were completed in 2010.

Field work for the Area Wide Study included indoor air sampling during the heating season, collecting and analyzing soil gas samples from temporary and permanent soil gas probes, collecting groundwater samples for analysis, collecting and analyzing soil samples, and extensive review of records and county databases to determine how properties were used. During this study, 291 homes had their indoor air tested and 35 of these homes were mitigated. IBM has done similar work in the Endicott area, installing hundreds of groundwater monitoring wells, soil gas sampling probes, and sampling the indoor air of hundreds of homes. Any reports that you may read will identify on the front cover whether they were written by DEC or by IBM. Both the DEC Area Wide Study and IBM reports are available at the public repository at the library in Endicott.


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