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EPA proposes cleanup plan for superfund site of former Sidney company

By Eric Rienhardt

Date:

SIDNEY, N.Y. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a cleanup plan to address creosote contamination at the GCL Tie and Treating superfund site located in the village of Sidney in Delaware County. 

The location is a former wood-treating facility that was operated between the early 1950s and 1988 when the property was “abandoned by the owners,” per the EPA website.

Creosote is an oily contaminant obtained from extracting coal tar at a high temperature and is commonly used as a wood preservative. 

The EPA’s proposed plan addresses the portion of the site where creosote contamination is impacting groundwater and calls for heating the subsurface soil to reduce the thickness of the creosote non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) to the point that the NAPL can be better extracted through specialized  extraction wells.

“EPA’s previous actions under the Superfund program significantly reduced the extensive creosote contamination impacting the soil and groundwater at the GCL Tie and Treating site,” said Pete Lopez, EPA regional administrator for Region II, which includes New York state. “Through this proposed plan, we are upholding our commitment to protect the environment for future generations by addressing the remaining creosote contamination in soil and bedrock at the site.”

Superfund is the informal name of a 1980 law allowing the EPA to clean up contaminated sites, per the EPA website. It also “forces the parties responsible for the contamination to either perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work,” the agency says.

About the site

The GCL Tie and Treating property comprises 26 acres of the 60-acre superfund site in an industrial area of Sidney. The property formerly contained a sawmill, a wood-treating facility, and a light manufacturing company. It is bordered by commercial and industrial properties, a railroad line, and undeveloped federal- and state-regulated wetlands, as described in an Aug. 20 EPA news release. 

The non-GCL properties at the site are those with contaminated soil, sediment, and groundwater originating from the GCL property.

Creosote contaminated several locations across the GCL property as a result of drip-drying creosote-soaked lumber without containment and “major documented spills,” the EPA said. 

One major spill occurred when a pressurized treatment vessel used at the GCL property malfunctioned in 1986, causing an estimated 30,000-gallon release of creosote. GCL representatives excavated the contaminated surface soil and stockpiled it onsite. In 1991, EPA took early action and disposed of various wastes on the property including the removal of thousands of gallons of creosote from tanks, piping, floors, sumps, and other equipment.

The Sidney site was added to the superfund national priorities list of the country’s “highest priority” hazardous sites in May 1994. 

EPA previously excavated and treated contaminated soil and sediments using thermal desorption and addressed groundwater contamination by installing a pump and treat system that brings contaminated groundwater to the surface where it is treated before it is discharged. 

The primary groundwater contaminants at the site include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – naphthalene, benzene, toluene, and ethylbenzene – and xylene isomer (BTEX) compounds. 

Contaminant concentrations have been “substantially” reduced since the groundwater treatment system began, but elevated levels of PAHs and BTEX continue to be detected in the groundwater in areas where pockets of creosote remain in fractured bedrock and soil that received the most significant direct discharges from site operations.

The EPA’s proposed cleanup plan addresses the remaining source of creosote contamination at the site that is continuing to contaminate groundwater. 

The plan proposes to use in-situ (in place) thermal treatment. Thermal treatment works by applying very high temperatures directly underground to the contaminated area, which makes the creosote less viscous and enables it to move more easily through soil toward extraction wells where it is collected and piped to the surface to be treated. 

It is anticipated that the creosote in the fractured bedrock would be extracted by injecting steam underground through wells drilled in the contaminated area and the creosote in targeted areas of soil would be extracted by using heaters placed in steel pipes underground. The heat can make the contaminated area hot enough to destroy some chemicals.

The estimated cost of this proposed plan is $25 million. With it, the EPA expects to address an ongoing source of groundwater contamination and help the aquifer to recover. A final action for the groundwater will be determined after this remedy is implemented.

Written comments on EPA’s proposed plan should be mailed or emailed to: Ashley Similo, remedial project manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 290 Broadway, 19th floor, New York, New York 10007-1866 or similo.ashley@epa.gov. 

The agency will accept comments postmarked up until Sept. 21, the EPA said.    

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