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Environmental Investigation and Cleanup - Elmira High School

Project Name: Former Sperry Remington-North Portion

NYSDEC Project ID: C808022

Ongoing Cleanup at Elmira High School

COVID-19: Under NYS Executive Order 202.6, DEC has deemed the remedial actions occurring at Elmira High School and surrounding sites as essential during COVID-19 response. The remedial investigation, interim remedial measures, and maintenance of current controls to prevent exposures are essential for the protection of public health and the environment. All New York State employees, on-site contractors, and personnel associated with the remedial efforts at these sites will continue to comply with all NYS COVID-19 regulations, and with Elmira High School COVID-19 procedures. For more information on COVID-19 Health and Safety Plans, please see below.

Community Newsletter: Elmira High School - Former Sperry Remington Property Cleanup - Summer 2020 Update (PDF)

Virtual Public Availability Session - December 3, 2020 - 6-8 pm - Website and Zoom Registration (leaves DEC website)

Enhanced Community Liaison Plan: Former Sperry Remington and Scott Technologies Sites - August 2020 (PDF)

Interim Remedial Measures (IRM): Up to Date Construction, Monitoring, and Health and Safety Information (leaves DEC website)

Questions and Answers: Frequently Asked Questions - Former Sperry Remington Site - November 2020 (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions - Former Scott Technologies Inc. (STI) Site - November 2020 (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions - Former Sperry Remington Property - North Portion September 2020 (PDF)

PROJECT HOTLINE: Still have questions or concerns? Need to report an issue? Contact the Project Team (leaves DEC website)

New York State is committed to overseeing a careful and thorough cleanup of the Elmira High School (EHS) property. Our top priority is ensuring that students, faculty, and visitors are not coming in contact with any of the site's below-ground contamination. The potential ways that people could be exposed to subsurface soil, groundwater and soil vapor contamination have been appropriately addressed:

Boundary of the Former Sperry Remington - North Portion Site
Boundary of the Former Sperry Remington - North Portion Site
  • Contaminated soil is below the ground's surface and covered by vegetated soil, wood chips, paving and building foundations.
  • Groundwater is not used for drinking water or other purposes at the school.
  • The effective operation of building's sub-slab depressurization systems (SSDS), as well as the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, ensure that contaminants beneath the building are not drawn into the school, where they could affect the indoor air quality.
  • Air quality at the school has been extensively tested and shown to be consistently below NYS Department of Health (DOH) air guideline values.

In 2017, Unisys entered into an agreement with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) under the State's Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) to complete a comprehensive environmental investigation and cleanup at the Elmira High School (EHS) property. Additional investigation is being conducted to identify all areas of below-ground contamination that must be cleaned up, and PCB-contaminated soil is being removed ahead of or in conjunction with EHS capital improvement projects at the school. While exposure pathways are being managed, EHS capital improvement projects provide an opportunity to more easily access areas of contamination and permanently remove contaminated material. All cleanup and investigation is being conducted by Unisys with strict NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and DOH oversight.

Unisys completed additional Interim Remedial Measure (IRM) cleanup work in August 2020 to remove an estimated 5,900 tons of below ground contaminated soil adjacent to the north side of the EHS:

Areas adjacent to EHS were restored prior to the start of school.

Unisys plans to progress with soil cleanup north through the Track and Football Field area in Fall 2020 through Spring 2021 (IRM #4A and IRM #5). Precautions will be undertaken to minimize disruption of EHS activities as cleanup work continues. IRM #6, adjacent to the Gymnasium is planned for Summer 2021 while school is out of session. Like previous IRMs, contaminated soil will be excavated and taken off-site for appropriate disposal or reused. IRM work plans are being developed that will address methods for excavation and offsite disposal, truck traffic, dust monitoring, and site restoration and will be made available in advance of the cleanup.

Locations of Scheduled IRMs and Previous IRMs Conducted Around Elmira High School

While work is underway, community air and dust monitoring is conducted during all cleanup activities. Dust control measures (e.g., watering) are undertaken to reduce dust on temporary dirt roadways and open excavations. To the extent possible, no visible dust is allowed to leave the work areas, and on occasion if monitors detect dust above action levels, work is stopped until corrective measures are put in place.

Unisys is conducting comprehensive investigations to define the nature and extent of the contamination below ground in soil and groundwater across the entire property and any areas where contamination has migrated to or been disposed at other properties. As part of this work, soil and groundwater in Area of Concern #18, Trichloroethylene (TCE) in soils under front parking lot, was investigated in 2019 (PDF, 3.6 MB, 78 Page). No TCE source or westward migration in groundwater was found.

In December 2019, Unisys completed an Interim Site Management Plan (PDF, 6 MB, 134 Page) to ensure that protective cover and soil vapor mitigation systems are working properly, and any deficiencies found will be quickly addressed.

DEC and DOH will continue to keep the public informed as this work progresses and as cleanup plans are developed. To receive site information electronically by email from the DEC, sign up for the DEC Delivers email listserv.

Properties Outside School

In addition to the cleanup efforts on the school property, DEC and DOH continue to oversee Unisys's ongoing investigation of potential off-site migration of contaminants in the surrounding community. Unisys is responsible for the thorough investigation and cleanup of all contaminants that have been released, disposed of or have migrated from the former industrial facility in all off-site areas.

Based on current and historical remedial investigation findings, there are no indications that contaminants are migrating or have been disposed immediately west, north and northeast of the EHS property.

The migration of contaminants southeast of the EHS in groundwater have been investigated and monitored by DEC from 1998 to 2007 and sampling data suggests they are of limited extent, breaking down and diminishing in concentration. No one is coming in contact with or drinking the groundwater as public water supply serves this area and is routinely monitored.

NYSDEC Project ID: 808043

Supplemental Work Plan for Remedial Investigation / Feasibility Study Coldbrook Creek: July 2019 Approval (PDF) - October 2019 Update (PDF)

Revised Interim Remedial Measure Work Plan (Oil Skimmer #2): September 2019 Approval - October 2019 Update (PDF, 11 MB, 168 Page)

Revised Interim Remedial Measure Work Plan Oil Skimmer #2: Construction Drawings (PDF, 3.6 MB) (October 2019)

The ongoing investigation of contaminants released to the Coldbrook Creek area has been underway since 2010. This investigation has determined the presence of potential residual sources of contamination in on-site structures and off-site impacts of site-related contaminants nearly 2 miles downstream in creek bed sediments. Additionally, no residual impact to surface water quality was found. No one is expected to come in contact with or drink the surface water as public water supply serves this area and adjacent property owners were advised of methods to reduce the risk of potential exposure to impacted creek sediments.

In December 2019, Unisys completed the first phase of soil sampling in flood prone areas adjacent to Coldbrook Creek to evaluate the extent of site contaminants associated with periodic flooding. Initial sampling areas were prioritized within the 100-year flood plain and the remaining areas will be completed in a second phase in summer 2020.

Unisys is planning to conduct additional Coldbrook Creek sampling in Summer 2020 to complete a Fish and Wildlife Impact Analysis.

In December 2019, Unisys completed the cleaning and a bypass of active storm sewers in preparation for the 2020 removal of Oil Skimmer #2. All waste and contaminated material will be appropriately managed for off-site disposal.

In Spring 2020, Unisys has been working toward the completion of the removal of Oil Skimmer #2, a potential source of PCB contamination in Coldbrook Creek. Impacted soils, sediments and concrete will be disposed off-site at appropriate regulated facilities and the site will be restored with a one-foot thick clean soil cover and turf.

NYSDEC Project ID: 808049

Site Characterization Work Plan Addendum #3: August 2019 Approval - December 2019 Update (PDF, 7.6 MB, 35 Page)

Shallow Soil Removal IRM: May 2020 Approval (PDF, 9.4 MB, 45 Page)

The ongoing characterization of areas of potential concern on the Former Scott Technologies site has been underway since 2010 and has documented elevated levels of contaminants in soil and pipe/pond sediment. The site has been utilized for materials storage during IRM activities at the adjacent Elmira High School.

In May-June 2020, Unisys will complete a shallow soil removal IRM to reduce the risk of potential exposure. Additionally, the materials storage area will be closed and restored as turf.

Public Meetings and Information Sessions

Upcoming Public Information Session: Due to the COVID-19 response, in person meetings have been postponed.

NYSDEC, NYSDOH and Unisys previously held public information sessions in 2019 and 2018 at the Elmira High School to provide progress updates. Separate stations demonstrating various aspects of the site history, investigation, cleanup and public health protection efforts were staffed by experts from NYSDEC, NYSDOH and Unisys to provide the opportunity for interested residents and community members to have specific questions answered. Information also was presented through videos and posters.

Videos presented (here as PDFs):

Posters presented:

NYSDEC, NYSDOH and Unisys Corporation held a public meeting on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at the Holiday Inn Elmira-Riverview. The presentation included details of the proposed PCB cleanup for the portion of EHS site.

Information provided at the public meeting included:

What is Exposure? (link leaves DEC's website)

NYSDEC held additional public meetings about the project in 2017 and 2015:

Additional public meetings will be held at later stages of the project as necessary and will be announced here.

Summary of Previous Work

Since beginning site characterization in July 2014 at the EHS, Unisys has collected more than 3,000 soil samples at various depths across the 34-acre property site, and analytical results have identified polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals as contaminants of concern in the subsurface soils. PCBs are the primary contaminant of concern in the subsurface soils of the proposed and completed IRMs.

PCBs are generally known to be stable in subsurface soil and do not easily migrate into groundwater. PCBs can migrate into soil vapor; however, no PCBs have been detected in the indoor air at EHS. Sub-Slab Depressurization Systems (SSDS) currently operate in the gymnasium, cafeteria, F-wing area, K-wing Science addition and the Music-wing of EHS. In addition, the building-wide heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system operates in positive pressure mode to further prevent vapor migration.

Interim Remedial Measures (IRM) soil cleanup activities at EHS began in 2017, Since then, approximately 70,000 tons of soil has been excavated and 45,000 tons of below ground hazardous and non-hazardous waste removed from the site. All hazardous and non-hazardous waste has been appropriately disposed of at off-site regulated landfills, and soils meeting standards were used to backfill excavations. A clean soil cover (two feet thick minimum) was installed over backfill and the surface was restored as turf, asphalt or concrete.

In 2017, in coordination with an EHS capital improvement project in the front parking area and tennis courts, Unisys implemented an Interim Remedial Measure (IRM #1) to remove contaminated soil from below-ground in the front parking and tennis court areas. An estimated 10,208 tons of soil was excavated and 1,350 tons of PCB hazardous waste and 2,580 tons of non-hazardous waste soil was taken off-site for disposal using cleaned and covered trucks traveling on main roads. The balance of excavated soil was reused as backfill below a two-foot-thick clean soil cover after sampling confirmed that it met standards. All waste materials removed from the site were properly disposed of at appropriate regulated facilities. The work area was restored with turf, asphalt, tennis courts and concrete sidewalks. Unisys also conducted an additional Short-Term Response Action (STRA) to remove shallow subsurface soils with elevated levels of PCBs above applicable standards on a portion of the football field and track infield.

In 2018, in coordination with another EHS capital improvement project, Unisys implemented IRM #2 to remove contaminated soil from below ground in the rear parking area. An estimated 41,608 tons of soil was excavated and approximately 12,951 tons of PCB hazardous waste and 16,507 tons of non-hazardous waste soil was taken off-site for disposal using cleaned and covered trucks traveling on main roads. The balance of excavated soil was reused as backfill below a two-foot-thick clean soil cover after sampling confirmed that it met standards. All waste materials removed from the site were properly disposed of at appropriate regulated facilities. The work area was restored with turf, asphalt and concrete sidewalks.

In 2019, Unisys implemented IRM #3 to remove contaminated soil from below ground on the northwest side of the EHS. An estimated 17,318 tons of soil was excavated and approximately 8,250 tons of PCB hazardous waste and 3,268 tons of non-hazardous waste soil was taken off-site for disposal using cleaned and covered trucks traveling on main roads. The balance of excavated soil was reused as backfill below a two-foot-thick clean soil cover after sampling confirmed that it met standards. All waste materials removed from the site were properly disposed of at appropriate regulated facilities. The work area was restored with turf and concrete sidewalks.


Site Features

The approximately 34-acre property is owned by the Elmira City School District and is comprised of the EHS. On the school property are the school building and grounds, including parking lots, a multiple-use athletic track and field, baseball/soccer fields, tennis courts, volleyball courts, a basketball court, and a playground.

The EHS property, located at 777 South Main Street, straddles the commercial boundary between the City of Elmira and the Town of Southport, Chemung County. It is bounded by South Main Street to the west, the Southern Tier Commerce Center to the south, the Consolidated Rail Corp. property to the east, and vacant and commercial properties to the north. The site is zoned residential, and the surrounding parcels are zoned residential, commercial, or industrial. The nearest residential areas are immediately to the northwest of the site on Ogorman Street and on the west side of South Main Street, as well as to the east of the Consolidated Rail Corp. property.

Site History

The Elmira High School (formerly Southside High School) property located at 777 South Main Street, Elmira, has a long history of industrial and manufacturing use. Originally part of larger 83-acre parcel, the site history is as follows:

  • 1887-1909: B.W. Payne & Sons produced high speed steam engines.
  • 1909-1935: Morrow Manufacturing Co., produced drill chucks, machine parts, and a line of tools.
  • 1936-1972: Remington Rand Corp. manufactured typewriter parts.
  • 1974-1977: Westinghouse Electric Corporation utilized the property primarily for warehousing.
  • 1977: The property was deeded to the Southern Tier Economic Growth Agency.
  • 1977-1979: The Southside High School was constructed on the northern portion of the original parcel, opening in 1979.

Earlier Work at EHS

2003 - NYSDOH Health Consultation Report concluded that:

  • Environmental conditions at Elmira High School, including indoor air quality and surface soils, pose no public health hazard.
  • The public was not exposed to the impacted sub-surface soils.
  • Direct contact with contaminated groundwater is not a concern.

Recommendations: Develop and Implement:

  • A soils management plan to provide measures to minimize exposure to subsurface soils.
  • An indoor air quality action plan to address the potential of impacted soil vapor migrating into the High School building.

2009 - Environmental Management Plan:

  • Purpose: to organize environmental data, maintain engineering controls, and manage future site development to reduce potential exposures to contaminated soil, groundwater, and soil vapor.
  • Components: Soil Management Plan, Indoor Air Quality Action Plan, Groundwater Management Plan, and an Operations, Monitoring and Maintenance Plan for Engineering Controls.

2010 - Mercury Manifested from Elmira High School:

  • A mercury abatement project of the gymnasium floor was completed. Mercury abatement of a gymnasium floors is not unique to EHS. The historic use of mercury in gymnasium floors is a well-documented, national issue, unrelated to past industrial operations.
  • In addition, during the restoration of the floor, a sub-slab depressurization system was installed to reduce the risk of soil vapor intrusion.

2014 - Order on Consent:

  • Unisys entered Order on Consent to complete site characterization.

2014 - Soil Vapor Intrusion Study:

  • Comprehensive soil vapor intrusion completed as part of the site characterization.
  • Sub-slab Depressurization System was expanded to address the F-Wing of High School.

2014 to Present - Environmental Monitoring Plan Annual Certification:

  • EHS Annual Certification that Environmental Controls such as the sub-slab depressurization system and covers are in place, maintained, and fully functional.

Interim Remedial Measures

Interim Remedial Measures are priority actions that mitigate the risk of exposure to environmental contaminants at EHS. "Interim remedial measures" are undertaken when any potential exposure scenario is noted.

Interim Remedial Measure No. 1 (IRM #1) Summer 2017:

  • Tennis Courts and Grandstand Area: Subsurface PCB contaminated soils located under the tennis courts and south of the grandstand area of the site were excavated and disposed of properly.
  • Football Field: Shallow soils with slightly elevated levels of PCBs from a portion of the track infield/Football field were excavated and disposed of properly. 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 Environmental Monitoring Plan ensures that protective site cover is maintained for the safety of those using the property.

Interim Remedial Measure No. 2 (IRM #2) Summer 2018:

  • Rear Parking Lot and Bus Loop: Subsurface PCB contamination soils will be excavated and disposed of properly. Upon completion of the IRM, EHS completed capital improvement work in this area.

Interim Remedial Measure No. 3 (IRM #3) Summer 2019:

  • Contaminated soil was removed from below-ground on the northwest side of the EHS and taken off-site for disposal. The area including the grassed area near the bleachers and a portion of the north parking lot was restored using clean fill.

Interim Remedial Measure No. 4 (IRM #4) Planned Summer 2020:

  • PCB-contaminated soil will be excavated north of and adjacent to the EHS and taken off-site for disposal.

Interim Remedial Measure No. 5 (IRM #5) Planned Fall/Winter 2020/2021:

  • During the fall of 2020 and into early 2021, contaminated soil will be excavated at the football field complex (FFC) and taken off-site for disposal.

Interim Remedial Measure No. 6 (IRM #6) Planned Spring/Summer 2021:

  • During the spring and summer of 2021, contaminated soil will be excavated in an area east of and adjacent to the EHS and taken off-site for disposal.

Remedial Investigation

Remedial Investigation Work Plan: July 2019 Approval (PDF) - October 2019 Update (PDF)

Unisys will continue its investigation and delineation of contaminants of concern at the site under the oversight of DEC and DOH. As new data becomes available, it will be provided to DEC and DOH.

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.

Interim Site Management Plan

Interim Site Management Plan: December 2019 (PDF)

An Interim Site Management Plan (ISMP) is currently being prepared by Unisys for review and approval by DEC and DOH. The approved ISMP will:

  • incorporate all relevant elements of the current EHS Environmental Monitoring Plan,
  • provide an updated operation and maintenance protocol for the ongoing sub-slab depressurization system and interim cover,
  • incorporate the current IRM work and site characterization data, and
  • manage all ongoing work at EHS.
  • Plan Highlights:
    • Identify all property use restrictions (for example, EHS is Restricted Residential use) and engineering controls (for example, soil cover).
    • Include provisions to maintain access agreements where necessary to inspect and/or perform excavation work in areas with soil covers.
    • Include a soils management plan outlining requirements to disturb remaining soils above the soil cleanup objectives. A very generic excavation work plan is included as Appendix G in the Site Management Plan template (see link below).
    • Require periodic inspections to ensure the remedy remains in place and continues to be effective.
    • Describe the system of notifications and reminders.
    • Provide contact information for DEC, DOH, EHS and Unisys.

Document Access Information

The links below provide access to Fact Sheets prepared by DEC; and Questions and Answers documents prepared by DEC and DOH:

Work Plans and Other Documents

EHS Environmental Study Information

EHS Environmental Study Information (link leaves DEC's website)

Health Consultation

Additional Information

Additional information and documents about the site are available in hard copy for public review at the following locations*:

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

Region 8 Office
6274 East Avon-Lima Road
Avon, NY 14414
Please contact Jill Bishop for an appointment:
(585) 226-5363

* Please contact these locations to determine if they are open during the COVID-19 response.

Project Management Contact Information

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 the NYSDOH Project Manager:
Sara Bogardus
Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation
Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Rm#1787
Albany, NY 12237
(518) 402-7860

Related Program Sites

Voluntary Cleanup Program site V00103 (South Main Street, Elmira):

The site, currently occupied by the Southern Tier Commerce Center, was historically the southern portion of the Remington Rand facility used for manufacturing operations. As a result of a voluntary agreement between the former site owner and NYSDEC, a series of cleanup activities including above-ground tank removals and contaminated soil excavations were conducted on the site during the period 1999 to 2004.

The main site features include old industrial buildings, a pond, large parking area, and a former recreation area. The southern end of the site is wooded. Portions of the site buildings are currently used for warehousing and manufacturing of pedestrian bridges. Groundwater is not impacted by the site. The Former Sperry Remington Site # 808043 is a 0.28 acre portion of this site where a combined storm and industrial sewer system discharged off-site. The Former Scott Technologies Site makes up the remainder of this former Voluntary Cleanup Site where additional areas of potential concern are being characterized and the extent of recently found soil contamination is being delineated.

Former Sperry Remington site 808043 (South Main Street, Elmira):

The site is a 0.28 acre portion of the former Remington Rand property where a historically combined storm and industrial sewer discharged offsite. Site-related contaminants appear to have been released to an off-site tributary/marsh that empties into Coldbrook Creek. NYSDEC signed an Order on Consent with UNISYS Corp to conduct a Remedial Investigation, which is ongoing.