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State will update the public this month on Elmira High School cleanup


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There are lingering concerns about industrial wastes buried under Elmira High School.
(Photo: Jeff Murray / Staff photo)

Persistent environmental concerns at Elmira High School will be front and center again June 14 when state officials hold an update on cleanup efforts.

Representatives from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Department of Health will hold a public information meeting at the high school at 5:30 p.m. June 14 to outline ongoing cleanup efforts at the former Sperry Remington industrial site.

The Elmira City School District bought the South Main Street property in 1977 and opened what was then Southside High School two years later.

Prior to that, the site was used for heavy industrial activity for nearly a century, but public concerns about health effects on students, faculty and others didn't surface until the 1990s.

Those worries bubbled up again this spring after a Star-Gazette report on numerous Southern Tier sites still contaminated with industrial pollutants, including Elmira High School.

DEC said there is no risk of exposure to any of the toxins that remain buried at the property, but environmental data analyst Walter Hang, who runs Ithaca-based Toxics Targeting, believes the state is downplaying the potential hazards.

DEC spokesman Sean Mahar said the agency has done extensive studies and worked with numerous partners to make sure the site is properly remediated.

One of those partners is Unisys, successor to Remington Rand, one of the major industries that operated on the property over the years.

Unisys signed a consent order with DEC and is responsible for cleanup costs of industrial contaminants at the high school and adjacent properties.

Representatives from Unisys will also be on hand at the June 14 meeting to provide detailed information on the ongoing cleanup efforts and environmental studies being conducted at the site.

The public session will run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the high school gymnasium, and residents can drop in at any time during the meeting.

Representatives from Unisys and the state agencies will be available to meet with individuals and answer questions throughout the evening.

There are still levels of known cancer-causing agents in the air and on the grounds at the school, Hang said, based on documents he obtained through freedom of information requests.

If you go

What: Update on industrial waste remediation projects at Elmira High School.
When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14th. People can drop in at any time during the session.
Where: The gymnasium at Elmira High School, 777 S. Main St. in Elmira.

Information: For background about the Sperry Remington site and information about remediation efforts, go to, or