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For Release: Wednesday, March 18, 2015

DEC Announces Results of Residential Surface Soil Tests in Neighborhood Adjacent to Corning-Painted Post High School

DEC, DOH and Corning Incorporated to Hold Public Meeting Thursday, Mar. 26 to Discuss the Findings and Next Steps

Results of surface soil tested at 168 residential properties in the neighborhood adjacent to Corning-Painted Post High School identified the presence of study-area related contaminants (primarily lead, cadmium or arsenic) above State Soil Cleanup Objectives (SCOs) at 38 properties, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. Further evaluation is needed where surface soil results exceeded SCOs to determine whether remedial action is appropriate to address the contamination.

SCOs are contaminant-specific soil concentrations that are protective of public health and the environment (groundwater and ecological resources) for specified uses of a property (e.g., residential, commercial). The residential SCOs were developed based on the assumption that people are exposed to chemicals in soil through activities that typically occur on residential properties, such as working and playing in the yard, and gardening. SCOs are set at a soil level at which health effects are unlikely to occur and are used, along with other considerations, to guide decisions about the need to reduce exposure to environmental contaminants.

DEC, the State Department of Health (DOH) and Corning Incorporated will hold an availability session and public meeting to discuss details of the recent testing and the next steps for testing of residential properties. Staff will be on hand to answer questions.

  • Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015, Ramada Inn, 304 South Hamilton St., Painted Post
    Availability session: 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Public Meeting: 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Residential Surface Soil Test Findings

Owners of 163 properties within the Study Area who granted access to Corning Incorporated for the surface soil sampling program Sept. 2014 through Dec. 2014 were recently given their individual testing results and had an opportunity to meet with representatives of the DEC, DOH and Corning Incorporated to discuss their individual results. Corning Incorporated previously sampled surface soil last summer at five additional residential properties located near the eastern end of Corning Boulevard.

Most of the soil levels for study area-related contaminants were below corresponding residential use SCOs. However, at approximately 23 percent of the residential properties sampled, the levels of metals in one or more surface soil samples exceeded the corresponding SCO. Of the 168 residential properties tested, 10 properties had levels that exceeded the residential SCO for lead, 29 had levels that exceeded the residential SCO for arsenic and 10 had levels that exceeded the residential SCO for cadmium (several properties had levels that exceeded SCOs for more than one metal).

An informational fact sheet that addresses these findings has been sent to the residents in the Study Area, families of students who attend CPP High School, local officials and media outlets. It is also available on DEC's website.

Potential Exposure Pathways and Recommendations

The ongoing study identified 38 residential properties where levels of study-area related contaminants in one or more surface soil samples exceeded the corresponding SCO for a residential setting, and the property owners were notified.

Actions were implemented to minimize the potential for contact with bare soil at five residential properties located at the eastern end of Corning Boulevard. Two properties had levels exceeding residential SCOs in surface soil and all five had levels exceeding residential SCOs in subsurface soil. Further evaluation is needed at 36 remaining residential properties where surface soil results exceeded SCOs to determine whether remedial action is appropriate to address the contamination. Subsurface soil sampling will be offered to homeowners of these 36 properties as well as 30 or more other residential properties in the Study Area where the presence of ash, brick or glass was identified or reported to DEC. Once this additional evaluation is complete, DEC, DOH and Corning will develop a plan of action that will be shared with public officials and the local community.

Property owners should be aware that, in its current condition, contact with contaminated soil at these properties is possible in areas not covered with grass or pavement, especially if there is visible ash, brick and glass. DOH and DEC will continue to evaluate these areas and address issues to reduce the potential for exposure if necessary.

DOH recommends that property owners follow the best practices described below to reduce any potential for exposure, including:

  • Wash with soap and water after gardening or any time before you eat;
  • Minimize children's direct contact with bare soil by laying down wood chips or maintaining grass cover, especially if soil contains visible fill material containing ash, brick or glass;
  • Plant vegetable gardens in raised beds with clean soil (at least 10 inches deep). Use untreated wood to make the beds. Pressure-treated wood and railroad ties contain added chemicals; and
  • Brush off soil from clothes and remove shoes and gloves before entering a home. Additional information about healthy gardening is available on DOH website.

For more information on exposure, visit the DOH website.

Future Activities

Additional surface and subsurface soil testing is planned this spring to better define the extent of fill that contains ash, brick or glass, and to further evaluate potential exposure pathways. DEC will also continue to evaluate the possible expansion of the study to include adjacent areas.

Upon completion of the study, DEC and DOH will evaluate the data to determine the next steps, including whether additional cleanup measures or other remedial actions are necessary to protect public health and the environment. The results of the study and any recommended remedial actions will be communicated to property owners and the public.

Background on Study Area Characterization Study

Under a consent order signed with DEC in June 2014, Corning Incorporated is performing an environmental study of fill soils that may be present on properties within the defined study area. The study began in July 2014, and additional characterization activities are planned through this summer.

The Study Area is located in the northeastern area of the City of Corning. It is bounded by Pyrex Street to the west, the Chemung River to the south, Post Creek to the east, and E. Pulteney Street to the north. Findings of elevated levels of lead and other contaminants in fill encountered during soil excavation undertaken as part of the high school expansion project in 2012 prompted the need for further study. Portions of the excavated fill were found to contain ash, brick and glass pieces that had hazardous levels of lead and cadmium. This fill required special handling and disposal. Other metals in the fill were found at elevated concentrations, but did not exceed levels considered to be hazardous waste. Additional characterization of this material is being undertaken.

Findings from soil samples completed to date confirm the presence of fill containing ash, brick and glass pieces at various portions of the Study Area, including Corning-Painted Post High School, Corning Christian Academy, Memorial Stadium, land in front of the City Firehouse, and the southeast and northwest portions of the residential area. DEC separately conducted shallow soil evaluation activities at select properties within and nearby the Study Area, which also confirm the presence of this type of fill at additional locations. The evaluation is ongoing.

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