The front row of folding chairs was empty. Eight people showed up to the meeting in the hall at the First United Methodist Church on McKinley Avenue, just a block away from the Huron Campus.
It’s a tragic story: IBM employed the town, cut their jobs, then left Endicott contaminated.
These folks have been through a lot – they have friends and relatives with cancer. One guy is working on a film about the contamination. Another, James Little, said he was proud to work at IBM. That’s why he’s working so hard to make sure they do the cleanup right. Still, Little feels like he’s dealing with the fallout.
“A friend of mine, he worked in my department. He worked in all the same chemicals I did. He got lung cancer not too long ago, so it’s pretty concerning,” said Little.
Another former IBMer, Rick White, wasn’t, as he put it, “a white shirt and tie guy,” at the company; he did manufacturing. He’s pretty jaded about the progress of the clean-up and the contamination that started when he first worked there in the 1970s.
“That spill is the first one that anybody knew about because they reported it and we’re still cleaning it up. And it’s not done,” said White.
“All the people that suffered and died and they’re still cleaning up ,” he added. “They still can’t come back and say, ‘it’s all good. Your property values should go up. We can bring back jobs. We can bring the area back. I don’t see it ever happening.”
People still work in the buildings that are the most contaminated. The representative from the Department of Environmental Conservation said, it’s true, that unfortunately it’s difficult remedy while the buildings are still operational.
The new information from last night’s meeting is that the DEC will release their proposal next month on how to decontaminate the building on the corner of Oak Hill and North Street. It’s known as Operational Unit 7 (OU 7). Once the DEC releases the proposal, they’ll hold a public hearing, which also is expected in February.