On September 12, 2013, the US EPA announced that a $9 million plan for the cleanup of a mercury-refining Superfund site in Albany County, New York will begin. A public meeting regarding the cleanup will take place on September 16th, 2013.
The site is located between the towns of Colonie and Guilderland, New York. Soil and sediments on the site are contaminated with mercury. Between the late 1950s and the late 1990s, the site was a mercury refining facility that, according to the EPA, “used an industrial oven to recover mercury from mercury-containing materials, including batteries, thermometers, pressure regulators and dental amalgams.” These activities caused contamination of soils, sediments, and run-off from the site.
Exposure to mercury is harmful to humans and to wildlife. It “can damage people’s nervous systems and harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune systems”.
The site has been on the Superfund list since 1983. EPA has been in charge of cleanup activities since 1999. The phase of cleanup that is expect to begin later this month will include the excavation of around 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. The soil to be removed in this phase is soil closest to surface-level, given that this is most accessible to humans. Excavated soil will be replaced with clean fill, and vegetation will be planted on the site.
Contaminated sediment will also be removed from Patroon Creek, which was contaminated by run-off from the site.
A second phase of cleanup will likely begin in the spring of 2014. This phase will involve cleanup of “Deeper contaminated soil and ground water will be treated using a technology that locks the mercury in a mixture of Portland cement and another agent, preventing it from moving into the surrounding soil and ground water.”
The superfund program operates on the principal that polluters, not the public, should pay for cleanup of pollution. According to the EPA, cleanup of the Mercury Refining Superfund site is being conducted and paid for by the parties responsible for the contamination, with oversight by the EPA, the parties responsible for clean up of this site are “Gillette Company, KeySpan Gas East Corp., Energizer Battery Manufacturing, Inc., Union Carbide Corporation and Spectrum Brands, Inc.” Additionally, “19 federal agencies and 42 additional entities also responsible for the contamination were required to make payments into an escrow account to fund the cleanup work at the site. EPA has also entered into settlements with 315 additional entities that sent mercury-containing material to the site. These settlements provided for the payment of funds to reimburse EPA for costs it incurred at the site. The value of the cleanup work to be performed is estimated at $9.3 million.”
More information about the clean up of this site is available in the EPA News Release.
More information about the superfund program is available here.
The cleanup will be funded by companies determined to be responsible for the contamination, and the EPA will oversee the process.