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Letter to Commissioner Seggos requesting a retraction and clarification re: spill # 9806491 cleanup

By Electronic Transmission

October 17, 2016

Honorable Basil Seggos
Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, New York 12233-0001

Re: Dominion Borger Compressor Station, 219 Ellis Hollow Creek Road, Ithaca, NY

Dear Commissioner Seggos:

I write to request that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) immediately issue a public retraction and clarification regarding a factually incorrect statement that a major petroleum spill # 9806491 reported at the above-referenced facility has been cleaned up in compliance with state standards.

I will summarize below information I obtained from DEC through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. These data document that the spill did not meet applicable state standards when it was administratively closed on 12/28/2000 even though it adjoins a state-registered wetland that drains into Cascadilla Creek, a major tributary to Southern Cayuga Lake.

In addition, contaminated groundwater was literally dumped on the ground after being passed through "hay bales" even though an "oily sheen" was present and regulatory action levels were exceeded. I am incredulous that DEC would permit such an action.

Given the inadequate remediation of groundwater problems associated with this spill and the fact that the earlier remediation would not meet the CP-51 clean up requirements currently being enforced by your agency, I request that DEC reopen the regulatory matter in order to require further investigation and clean up of groundwater pollution caused by this spill.

DEC's on-going failure to clean up this spill in compliance with applicable standards underscores your agency's long-standing inability to prevent and clean up water quality violations involving the existing Dominion Pipeline and dozens of other fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

I reiterate my request that DEC rescind the "blanket authorization" Section 401 Water Quality Certification that it improperly granted for the proposed Dominion New Market Pipeline Expansion Project, which includes the Borger compressor station.

For all these reasons, I also request that an "issues conference" be convened in Ithaca, NY to resolve all environmental and public health concerns raised about DEC's inability to fulfill the strict requirements of Section 401 of the U. S. Clean Water Act as well as other criticisms of DEC's proposed efforts to permit the Dominion New Market project to proceed.

Given the gravity of this important policy-setting matter, I write to detail my concerns.

DEC Incorrectly Stated that Spill # 9806491 Had Been Cleaned up to State Standards

On July 28, 2016 I posted for public review a data profile for this spill which indicates that it reportedly does not meet state clean up standards even though it was administratively closed by DEC on 12/28/2000. I double-checked your agency's spill incidents database multiple times, including the same day I released the data.

I also posted a second spill reported at the Borger Compressor Station as well as other Dominion Pipeline spills related to the proposed New Market Pipeline Expansion Project.

See: Dominion Pipeline (earlier known as CNG) spills

An Ithaca Times article subsequently quoted Mr. Kevin Hale, chief emergency response coordinator for DEC, regarding the Borger Compressor Station spills. The article reported, "As for whether or not cleanups met standards, when supplied with the DEC spill numbers, Hale said that his records showed that they had met standards (emphasis added)."

This assertion was accepted by the reporter for the Ithaca Times even though no documentation was reported to back up Mr. Hale's claim. See paragraph 17 at: Dominion, DEC Say Pipeline Is Safe

With due respect, I do not believe this statement is true for spill # 9806491, which references extensive contamination hazards associated with five Areas of Concern (AOC).

I submitted a FOIL request to your agency regarding this spill. I reviewed the wide range of documents that I received pursuant to that request. As you will see, a copy of the spill profile documents that the meets standards datafield is "false."

I also wrote the DEC investigator involved with the spill to confirm that it does not meet clean up standards. Mr. Richard J. Brazell wrote me back and reported:

"The initial excavation of soil in AOC #5-Loading Dock Area (Former Inactive Trash Pit) still had soil exceedances above the STARS [Spills Technology and Remediation Series, not in the original] Values. Additional soil was removed and additional confirmatory samples were collected. The results of these new samples indicated that there were still some exceedances of PAHs [polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, not in the original] (emphasis added)."

Mr. Brazell noted, "However, at the time the Department allowed that samples could also be analyzed for TCLP [toxic characteristic leaching potential, a hazardous waste determination protocol, not in the original] and if these values were not exceeded the soil was deemed remediated. Even though the RP [responsible party] met the TCLP criteria, and groundwater was not impacted, I elected at the time as checking the box in the database as not meeting standards (emphasis added). The Department no longer uses STARS Memo #1."

"Comparing these results to CP-51 which are the cleanup levels we now use for contaminated soil. There are exeedances [sic] for Benzo(a)anthracene and chrysene."

In short, Mr. Brazell's written statement clearly confirms that spill # 9806491 did not meet clean up standards when he administratively closed the spill and still would not meet clean up standards pursuant to current requirements. This directly contradicts Mr. Hale's statement.

See Mr. Brazell's full response and related spill documents at: Inadequate Investigation and Clean up Documentation Borger Compressor Station CNG Spill # 9806491

Additional Pollution Concerns Must be Investigated and Cleaned up at Borger Compressor Station

After reviewing available site assessment and remediation documents for the spill site, it is clear that the spill has not been properly assessed according to the current CP-51/Soil Cleanup Guidance requirements. That is why I respectfully request that the spill be administratively reopened, investigated further and cleaned up in strict compliance with all applicable requirements due to the spill's potential impact on an adjoining regulated wetland as well as nearby Cascadilla Creek.

According to CP-51, "Site-specific soil cleanup levels, determined in accordance with this guidance, are only applied after:

• the site, or area of concern, is fully investigated to determine the nature and extent of contamination (emphasis added);

• all sources of contamination are addressed consistent with the hierarchy provided in 6 NYCRR 375-1.8(c) or consistent with the RCRA Corrective Action Program (as appropriate);

• groundwater, if contaminated, has been evaluated for appropriate remedial actions consistent with 6 NYCRR 375-1.8(d) or consistent with the RCRA Corrective Action Program (as appropriate); and

impacts on adjacent residential properties, surface water, aquatic ecological resources are evaluated, as well as indoor air, soil vapor, vapor intrusion and other appropriate media (emphasis added)."

Inadequate Delineation and Clean up of Two Areas of Concern

As you will see from the highlighted excerpts I presented for your review, a total of 5,130.02 tons of contaminated material was removed from the Borger Compressor Station site even though the original spill profile only reported "one gallon" of "unknown petroleum." A total of 151.61 tons of that impacted soil constituted hazardous waste.

Extensive stained soils and groundwater pollution with an "oily sheen" were identified at multiple locations at the site, including at the groundwater interface, but the problems were neither properly delineated nor completely removed at two AOCs (#3 and #5).

An additional two AOCs (#1 and #2) did not involve any remedial action at all despite the documented presence of elevated Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon levels.

AOC #5 clearly warrants further investigation. According to Section 4.2 of the site assessment report, "Flow on the east side of the access road, near AOC #5 is essentially southeast to another local stream."

As you can see from Figure 3 which identifies the groundwater monitoring points, no assessment of groundwater flow was made southeast of the identified area of contamination. As a result, known groundwater contamination could have impacted an adjoining wetland area to the Southeast that drains into Cascadilla Creek.

AOC #3 also warrants further clean up:

"Excavation of the former liquids pits revealed standing water with an oily sheen on portions of the water in the pit. The oil sheen and surface water were controlled using sorbent booms, and water below the sheen was pumped to a storage tank pending proper disposal considerations. A water sample was collected from the excavation pit water below the oily sheen (BGR-3W-001) on October 1, 1999 and submitted for laboratory analysis of BTEX by USEPA Method 8260 and TPH by USEPA Method 1664. On October 8, 1999, a second water sample was collected through the oily sheen (BGR-3W-002) and submitted for laboratory analysis of BTEX and SVOCs by EPA Method 8270. These water samples were collected to characterize the water that was pumped from this excavation into a temporary storage tank in order to evaluate disposal options.

The water analytical results are presented in Table 3. BTEX was not detected in BGR-3E-001. However, TPH was detected at a concentration of 17 micrograms per liter (ug/l) in sample BGR-3W-001. TPH does not have a published clean up level. Sample BGR-3E-002 contained detectable levels of ethylbenzene (19 ug/l), tolune (0.5 ug/l) and xylenes (14.6 ug/l); but SVOCs were not detected. The ethyl benzene and xylene concentrations both exceeded their clean up level of 5 ug/l.

After review of the sample results, the water from the excavation held in the storage tank was discharged to the ground through hay bales because the sample collected at the water below the oily sheen did not contain detectable constituents of concern and SVOCs were not detected in either sample (emphasis added)."


First, Table 3 in the Site Characterization Report references a Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon concentration of 17 mg/l or parts per million. That is 1,000 greater than the 17 ug/l or parts per billion referenced in the report narrative. The presence of an "oily sheen" supports the higher concentration.

It is inconceivable that polluted groundwater with an "oily sheen" removed from an area of high-level contamination was dumped on the ground. Passing the polluted groundwater through "hay bales" does not constitute adequate treatment in any way.

Second, it is equally hard to believe that impacted soil was only "excavated vertically to depths at or immediately beneath the water table (ranging from approximately 3.5 to 6 feet below the top of the excavation) and continued laterally until indications of impacts (i. e., staining, odors, and/or elevated organic vapor readings) were diminished (emphasis added)."

In conclusion, all the contaminated soil and groundwater should have been totally removed from the Former Liquid Pits (AOC #3) and the Loading Dock Area (AOC #5) in order to safeguard the adjoining state-registered wetlands that drain into Cascadilla Creek. Given the presence of contaminants that originally exceeded applicable clean up levels by more than a million-fold, rigorous efforts must be undertaken to investigate and remediate all of the toxic pollution at this site in strict compliance with all applicable state standards.

Given those concerns, I request that the Borger Compressor Station site be remediated on a comprehensive basis without further delay.

I trust that you will find my request self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions that I might be able to answer.

Thank you for your consideration and for your public service.

Very best regards,

Walter Hang

cc: Honorable Judith A. Enck, Environmental Protection Agency
Region 2 Administrator
Honorable Barbara S. Lifton
Honorable Steven Englebright
Honorable Thomas F. O'Mara
Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand
Honorable Members of the Tompkins County Legislature