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Environmental Investigation and Cleanup - Elmira High School

Project Name: Former Sperry Remington-North Portion

NYSDEC Project ID: C808022

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 other EHS capital improvement projects at the school. Although exposure pathways were being managed, the EHS capital improvement projects provided 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.

Summer 2018 Cleanup Activities

Beginning June 23, 2018, Unisys will be undertaking an Interim Remedial Measure (IRM) to remove contaminated soil from below ground prior to the Elmira City School District's replacement of the parking lot and bus loop on the southeast side of the EHS. This work will be done in accordance with the approved work plan (PDF, 4.3 MB, 95 Page). An estimated 28,000 tons of soils will be excavated, approximately 6,800 tons of PCB hazardous waste soil from below ground will be taken off-site for disposal. The majority of excavated soil will be sent to a non-hazardous materials site, and some soils will be sampled for reuse on site if it meets standards. All materials removed from the site will be properly disposed of at appropriate facilities using cleaned and covered trucks traveling on main roads. During days where materials may be transported from the site, no more than 35 trucks per day are anticipated. The area will be restored using clean fill prior to the school's construction activities. This will be completed prior to the start of school in September.

While work is completed this summer, access to the school will be through the north parking lot. Community air and dust monitoring will be conducted during all cleanup activities. Dust control measures (e.g., watering) will be undertaken to reduce dust on temporary dirt roadways and open excavations. No visible dust should leave the work areas, and if air monitors detect dust above action levels, work will be stopped until corrective measures are in place.

Expedited Actions

In addition to this year's planned PCB cleanup, DEC has directed Unisys to expedite comprehensive investigations to define the nature and extent of the contamination below ground on the athletic field area. This will jump start the necessary work needed to guide the development of the cleanup plan for this portion of the site and allow for construction to begin in 2019. As this investigation progresses, inspections and sampling will continue in the area to ensure the cover systems are working properly, and any deficiencies found will be quickly addressed.

As a precaution, DEC has directed Unisys to re-inspect the school foundation for cracks and to seal any that are found if necessary, comprehensively evaluate the current SSDSs, and conduct additional air sampling from beneath and within the school. This work will be conducted this summer, and all data and information will be shared with the community as it becomes available. Actions will be taken to quickly address and eliminate any deficiencies found. 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.

Summary of Previous Work

Since beginning site characterization in July 2014 at the EHS, Unisys has collected more than 1,000 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 IRM.

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 were detected in the indoor air at EHS. Furthermore, the K-wing Science addition, closest to the proposed IRM, was constructed with a sub-slab depressurization system operating 24-7 to lessen the potential for sub-slab vapors to enter the indoor air. Similar systems operate in the gymnasium, cafeteria, and F-wing area of EHS in addition to building-wide operation of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in positive pressure mode to further prevent vapor migration.

In 2017, in coordination with another EHS capital improvement project, Unisys implemented an IRM to remove 1,350 tons of PCB hazardous waste soils and 2,580 tons of non-hazardous PCB impacted soils for off-site disposal. All waste was appropriately disposed of at off-site regulated landfills, and soils meeting standards were used to backfill the area. 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 and backfilled the area with clean soils.

Investigation of 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 offsite migration of contaminants in the surrounding community. Based on current remedial investigation findings, there are no indications that contaminants are migrating or have been disposed 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 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. Additionally, Unisys is currently investigating potential wastes that were disposed of in the Coldbrook Creek area and is responsible for the thorough investigation and cleanup of all contaminants that have been improperly disposed of or have migrated from the former industrial facility in all off-site areas. Cleanup actions in the upstream headwaters area are beginning in the Fall of 2018 with final investigation activities in Coldbrook Creek scheduled for 2019.


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 utilize the property primarily for warehousing
  • 1977: the property deeded to the Southern Tier Economic Growth Agency
  • 1977-1979: The Southside High School was then constructed on the northern portion of the original parcel, opening in 1979.

Public Meetings

Public Information Session: Elmira High School Cleanup, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (PDF)

NYSDEC, NYSDOH and Unisys held a public availability session on June 14, 2018
at the Elmira High School to discuss the ongoing cleanup actions. Individual stations about various aspects of the 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 that will be completed between June and September 2018.

Information provided at the public meeting includes:

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.

Previous Work Done

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 enters 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 is expanded to address the F-Wing of HS.

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 EMP 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 will complete capital improvement work in this area.

    Locations of Interim Remedial Measure #1 and Interim Remedial Measure #2 - Former Sperry Remington - North Portion Site

    Locations of Interim Remedial Measure #1 and Interim Remedial Measure #2 -- Former Sperry Remington - North Portion Site

Remedial Investigation

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. NYSDEC will continue to keep the public informed throughout the investigation and cleanup of the site.

Interim Site Management Plan

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 [X] 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.

View a template for a Site Management Plan (PDF, 686 KB, 99 Page) which would be used as a starting point to develop an Interim Site Management Plan for EHS.

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 Regina Willis for an appointment:
(585) 226-5324

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:
Dawn Hettrick, P.E.
Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation
Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Rm#1787
Albany, NY 12237
(518) 402-7860

Related Sites

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

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 wooden pallets. Remediation of the site has been completed, including excavation and off-site removal of contaminated soil. Groundwater is not impacted by the site.

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.