Village of Endicott Environmental Investigations Information Center
Project Information Summary
Solvents, Contamination and Cleanup at Endicott
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were used as solvents in manufacturing operations at a 140-acre industrial facility located in Endicott and Union, New York and formerly owned by IBM. Groundwater beneath the site has been found to be 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.
In 1979, IBM Endicott reported a spill of 4,100 gallons of the solvent TCA (1,1,1-trichloroethane, also known as methyl chloroform), a commonly-used VOC. A comprehensive hydrogeologic report subsequently prepared by IBM indicated a larger than expected plume containing industrial solvents TCE, or trichloroethene; tetrachloroethene (also known as PCE or perc); DCA, or dichloroethane; DCE, or dichloroethene; methylene chloride; vinyl chloride, and freon 113; since then, benzene, toluene and xylene have also been found in the groundwater). Groundwater remediation (pumping and treatment) and monitoring began immediately and continue today under the authority of a state Hazardous Waste Management permit.
The primary contaminants are TCE (trichloroethene), trichloroethylene 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 IBM plant site. Groundwater flow transports the contamination to off-site areas southwest of the plant, with lower levels extending as far as the Susquehanna River.
Remediation consists of pumping wells to capture the contaminated groundwater so it can be treated to remove the VOCs. Although groundwater data indicate that this program has been effective, it typically takes many years, or even decades, to clean up groundwater. IBM is evaluating ways to expedite groundwater source containment and removal, as well as potential enhancements to the groundwater remedial program that would shrink the plume as quickly as possible. This would minimize the number of buildings potentially subject to vapor from solvents carried by groundwater.
Solvent Vapor Intrusion
Based on a growing understanding of contaminant vapor mitigation, in 2002 DEC required IBM to investigate the potential for contaminant vapors to migrate from groundwater through the soil into buildings above. The results of the investigation indicate that vapor migration has 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 are greater, and moving to areas where the concentrations are lower. As of July 30, 2004, IBM has identified approximately 480 structures in the Village of Endicott and the Town of Union. Their owners have been offered mitigation systems to intercept the IBM-related contaminant vapors, and nearly 470 systems have been installed on 418 properties.
Sampling data indicate that there are sources of vapor contamination in addition to those associated with IBM.
Superfund Site Classification
In February 2004, DEC reclassified the IBM Endicott site to a class 2 State Superfund site. The reclassification occurred as a result of new information regarding groundwater contamination and soil vapor intrusion into structures in the area over the groundwater plume. A class 2 site is one where hazardous waste constitutes a significant threat to the public health or environment.
IBM Endicott Consent Order
In September, 2004, DEC and IBM entered into a formal consent order that requires IBM to investigate and remediate contamination in the Village of Endicott and Town of Union.
The Consent Order requires IBM to conduct a supplemental remedial investigation and focused feasibility study program for seven operable units that will identify and evaluate previously unknown or insufficiently evaluated potential sources of pollution at and in the vicinity of the site, and develop and implement appropriate cleanup measures.
Four interim remedial measures (IRMs) 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.
The consent order also sets forth specific IRMs to be undertaken by IBM:
- An enhanced groundwater pump-and-treat system to capture contaminants on-site at a source zone along the railroad tracks
- A groundwater pump-and-treat system south of North Street between Grant and Garfield avenues to capture contaminants moving off-site and to reduce the plume size west of the well location
- A groundwater pump-and-treat system with reinjection of clean groundwater in the southern area at a location to be determined after further investigation and testing Plume control in the bedrock with a new groundwater recovery well in the vicinity of the cafeteria, building 42
- Complete investigation of on-site source areas and implementation of a remedial action for each source area if necessary
- Development and implementation of a comprehensive operation, maintenance and monitoring plan which will provide for the continued operation and maintenance of a number of activities commenced pursuant to IBM's RCRA permit, and which will operate and maintain all elements of the comprehensive remedy to be developed for the site
- Reimbursement of oversight costs incurred by the state on and after January 1, 2004
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 has undertaken a large comprehensive study of the area, calling it the Endicott Area Wide Study.
The Endicott Area Wide Study aims to further define the extent of soil gas contamination and groundwater contaminated in the upper aquifer west of Jefferson Avenue and east of Arthur Avenue in Endicott. The study will also investigate 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 during the winters of 2003/4 and 2004/5. The department also has almost completed a study of the Old Village Dump, augmenting a study conducted in the 1990's, and finds no connection between the dump and groundwater contamination further downgradient. This study also included extensive soil gas testing and indoor air testing in and around the Jennie F. Snapp Middle School. The department has completed an investigation of Creative Printing in the Village of Endicott to determine if they were a source of groundwater contamination. The department is currently developing a work plan to further investigate many former and/or current industrial properties in Endicott that may have used solvents. The investigation will begin during the summer of 2005 and will be performed in seven different phases. Those seven phases may take three years or more to complete.
Field work for the Area Wide Study will include additional 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. 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 it was written by the department or by IBM. Both DEC Area Wide Study and IBM reports are available at the public repository at the library in Endicott.