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For Release: Thursday, June 14, 2018

DEC and DOH Announce Expedited Cleanup at Elmira High School Property

State to Direct Removal of Contaminated Soil at Parking Lot this Summer and Launch of Investigation at Athletic Fields to Locate and Remove Contamination

Expand Air and Soil Monitoring Program Throughout School During Cleanup; Current Monitoring Results Continues to Show No Impact to Air Quality

As part of the state's ongoing cleanup efforts of the Elmira High School property, the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health today announced the following accelerate actions that will occur on the site this summer to advance the cleanup of the site. These actions will address contamination at the parking lot, expedite investigation of the athletic fields and conduct a comprehensive monitoring program throughout the school.

"New York State remains committed to overseeing a careful and thorough cleanup of the Elmira High School property," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our top priority is always ensuring that students, faculty, and visitors are not coming in contact with any of the contamination found below-ground on the site, and these expedited actions will further ensure the contamination is being more quickly eliminated from the site."

Starting in June, Unisys will begin removing 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. In addition, DEC has directed Unisys to expedite comprehensive investigations of the contamination below ground on the athletic field area, which will jumpstart the necessary work needed to cleanup this portion of the site beginning in 2019.

DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker said, "We have heard community concerns regarding exposure and this expedited remediation plan will further ensure that the health of students and staff remain protected. These additional measures, combined with protocol already in place, should continue to provide the school community the peace of mind they deserve at their place of learning."

Summer 2018 Cleanup Activities at Parking Lots

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. 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 disposal site, and some soils will be sampled for reuse on site if it meets appropriate 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 and will be completed prior to the start of school in September.

Summer access to the school will be through the north parking lot. Community air and dust monitoring is 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 at Athletic Fields

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.

While cleanup actions and investigations progress, the potential ways that people could be exposed to subsurface soil, groundwater and soil vapor contamination have been appropriately addressed:

  • 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 air guideline values.

Expansion of Air and Soil Monitoring at High School

As a precaution, and to ensure all systems are functioning properly, DEC has also 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.

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.

DEC and DOH will continue to keep the community informed of our actions, and anyone with questions regarding this site or the ongoing cleanup actions are encouraged to call to receive accurate information:

Tim Schneider, P.E.
6274 East Avon-Lima Road
Avon, NY 14414
Phone: 585-226-5480

Dawn Hettrick, P.E.
Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Room #1787
Albany, NY 12237

The ECSD maintains a web page with additional information. (link leaves DEC's website)

The NYSDEC maintains a web page with additional information. (link leaves DEC's website)

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