VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — After more than 30 years of assessment and mitigation efforts, Elmira Heights may be entering one of the final stages of remediation on the superfund site that has polluted the community since World War II.
Representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a community meeting Wednesday to discuss the next proposed remediation measure, this one addressing continued vapor intrusion for homes and other structures southeast of the former Facet Enterprises facility.
If the proposed plan is approved, over the next five years, the EPA would continue to survey homes and other structures in the Elmira Heights neighborhood to assess if dangerous levels of trichloroethylene, or TCE, are present.
“We come into your home on one day, we drill the hole into your floor. It’s about the size of a quarter,” EPA Community Involvement Manager for the project Mike Basile said. “We put in a little canister. It’s there for 24 hours. We come back 24 hours later. We take it off and we seal the floor. And then about two months later we provide you with the results. If the results are high, we then recommend an installation of the vapor mitigation system. And again, we can do that within a day or two.”
The mitigation systems are essentially the same used for radon mediation, consisting of a set of PVC pipes and a fan. Basile said, under the proposed plan, all of that would be provided at no cost to homeowners.
To date, the EPA and New York Department of Environmental Conservation have surveyed over 250 homes and businesses and installed around 60 vapor mitigation systems in impacted residences. According to Aidan Conway, Remedial Project Manager for the EPA assigned to the Facet Enterprises Superfund Site, testing has shown some homes in Elmira Heights to have indoor air concentrations as high as 37 micrograms per cubic meter, over seventeen times the EPA’s maximum for homes of 2.1 micrograms per cubic meter.
Following the five year testing and installation period, the EPA estimates continued maintenance on the mitigation systems in homes would cost around $20,000 each year.
The plant previously owned by Facet Enterprises manufactured various metal implements since the second world war. The EPA first began investigating the site for hazardous chemicals in 1979 and discovered serious amounts of TCE contaminants and other volatile organic compounds. The contaminants also entered the groundwater supply and spread to the southeast throughout the Elmira Heights neighborhood.
Since then, the EPA in collaboration with other agencies like the DEC and New York State Department of Health removed over 16,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, installed several groundwater filtration pumps and other measures.
Basile said while the proposed plan will likely have a duration of about five years and maintenance of the existing mitigation systems will have to continue in perpetuity, there’s hope that the bulk of remediation is largely finished.
“It is light at the end of the tunnel when you think about the fact we identified the problem at the facility and we completed that work between the 80’s and 1997,” Basile said.
Public comments on the proposed plan and additional resources can be found on the EPA’s website and are available at the Horseheads Town Clerk’s office.