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NYSDEC weighs in on Elmira High School contamination


ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) -- Local residents packed the Elmira Holiday Inn tonight demanding answers as to why there's still contamination on the grounds of the Elmira High School. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) presented the public with what their plans are moving forward with trying to remediate the grounds of the Elmira High School.

"We're going to implement the interim remedial measure, which will be discussed tonight," said NYSDEC Remedial Bureau Director, Mike Cruden. "It's a large soil removal project. It's basically being coordinated with the school district. They want to come in afterwards and do some capital improvement projects on top of that area."

DEC officials say they're conducting an ongoing investigation of the school grounds. According to them, there's no evidence of surface contamination.

"We also have an ongoing investigation and we have to complete our investigation," said Cruden. "But there is no surface contamination. So everything is covered. Everything is below grade and we've done some short term response actions basically to put down mulch and stuff like that, soil, sod."

But, according to Toxics Targeting President, Walter Hang, he says that just isn't the case.

"Those areas have not been cleaned up in a comprehensive way," said Toxics Targeting President, Walter Hang. "The shocking thing is there aren't any plans to clean up huge portions of the football field, the areas where contamination has been identified. So this is just a tragic situation. This site should have been cleaned up from top to bottom."

Hang says they're planning on cleaning up areas covered by hard surfaces, like the parking lots. But he claims the real threats are open surfaces like the football field, which still have not been addressed.

"Grass is not going to protect people from toxics," said Hang. "It's in the surface soil and there's huge amounts, between two inches down and two feet down. So this is a situation that should have been resolved literally decades ago. There's no benefit in delay."

Hang is still hoping Governor Andrew Cuomo and the DEC will list the site as a "class 1", which is the highest contamination level, and issue a comprehensive clean up for the entire school property.