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Highlighted DEC/DOH Statement Regarding "no threat to students, faculty or community" at Elmira High School

For Release: Thursday, May 10, 2018

DEC and DOH Update on Ongoing Environmental Cleanup at the Elmira High School

Routine monitoring shows no threat to students, faculty or community

State Directing Unisys to Undertake thorough Investigation and Cleanup

Additional public meetings planned for the coming weeks

The New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health today provided the following update regarding the ongoing actions to cleanup limited soil and groundwater contamination found below ground on portions of the Elmira High School property. Ongoing investigations by Unisys, directed by DEC and DOH, have identified isolated areas of contamination, and routine monitoring continues to show no threats to students, faculty or the community at the school.

"New York State remains committed to overseeing a thorough cleanup of contamination found below ground on limited portions of the Elmira High School property, and our top priority is ensuring the students, faculty and community are safe," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "To be clear, the soil and groundwater contamination found on the site is below ground and any potential exposure pathways where students, faculty or visitors could encounter it have been appropriately addressed, and DEC and DOH expert staff will continue to work with the Elmira School District on a careful and coordinated cleanup."

"We will continue to work with the community to understand and address their concerns while ensuring measures remain in place to address the potential for exposure," said DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "Protective cover systems are in place to reduce the risk of human exposure to PCBs in soils, and additional mitigation measures to address soil vapor are effectively preventing exposure to volatile chemicals. In addition, the school is served by the city of Elmira's public water system, which is routinely tested and meets state standards."

While results of environmental sampling conducted by DEC and DOH beginning in 2000 and recent as 2017 do indicate subsurface soils, groundwater and soil vapor contamination at the property, the results also indicate that people are not exposed to contaminants because of the following; contaminated soil is below the ground's surface and cover systems (vegetated soil, paving and building foundations); groundwater is not used for drinking water or other purposes at the school; and the building's heating, ventilating, air-conditioning system, as well as sub-slab depressurization systems are effectively operated in a manner intended to ensure that contaminants beneath the building are not drawn into the school and affecting the indoor air quality. Additionally, air quality at the school has been extensively tested and is shown to be consistently below NYS Department of Health guideline values.

The Former Sperry Remington Property is currently owned by the Elmira City School District, and the Elmira High School sits atop a portion of the site. DEC and DOH have worked to investigate the site based on previous reports and industrial activities that occurred at this location. Through these investigations, isolated areas of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil below ground, and Trichloroethylene (TCE) detected in groundwater were detected at the site.

In 2014, Unisys, the responsible party, began investigating the site and entered into the Brownfield Cleanup Program in 2017. With the oversight of the DEC and DOH, measures to remove below ground PCB contaminated soils were undertaken last year, and additional actions are planned for this summer to accommodate Elmira City School District capital project schedule, not because there is an emergency situation to be addressed. The Elmira City School District continues to implement an Environmental Management Plan which includes maintaining and routinely monitoring of protective systems for indoor air and soil management programs at the High School.

During all cleanup activities, community air and dust monitoring is conducted. Dust control measures will be undertaken to reduce dust on temporary roadways and open excavations. No visible dust should leave the work areas and if air monitors detect dust above action levels, work is stopped until corrective measures are in place.

In response to recent misinformation regarding the history of the site, DEC has used all previous reports and information, including a 1988 Preliminary Site Assessment report to inform and guide all investigations and cleanup actions at this site. DEC used the limited information available in these reports detailing the industrial materials used and wastes generated at a facility that was at one time known as the "Largest Typewriter Factory in the World", to guide previous investigations. Currently, DEC is overseeing a comprehensive investigation being performed by Unisys to identify the nature and extent of any contamination and develop appropriate cleanup plans. DEC has and will continue to investigate any information regarding past uses and contamination in the area and throughout the community to ensure residents are protected.

DEC and DOH will continue to keep the community informed of our actions, and will be hosting additional public meetings in the coming weeks. In the meantime, any students, faculty or staff with questions regarding this site or the ongoing cleanup actions are encouraged to call to receive accurate information:

Tim Schneider, P.E.
6274 East Avon-Lima Road
Avon, NY 14414
Phone: 585-226-5480

Dawn Hettrick, P.E.
Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Room #1787
Albany, NY 12237

The ECSD maintains a web page with additional information. (link leaves DEC's website)

The NYSDEC maintains a web page with additional information.