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Thank you for the Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail site visit and discussion of recent high-level lead concerns

Subject: Thank you for the Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail site visit and discussion of recent high-level lead concerns
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2018 12:32:30 -0400
From: Walter Hang
To: Don ______
CC: Joe ______, Mary _____, Elias _________, Scott Pruitt, Peter Lopez, Walter ______, Iledefaso ______, Basil Seggos, (DEC) , Howard A. Zucker, (HEALTH)

Hi Don,

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me yesterday. I appreciate you showing me the layer of rocks that is being laid down to reduce toxic lead exposures for visitors who walk along the Gorge Trail to and from Ithaca Falls. I understand that this is a temporary measure as a prelude to further clean up of the area where up to 69,800 parts per million of lead was recently documented as well as where the pollution originates on the upper cliff face above the Gorge Trail.

EPA temporarily covers highly lead contaminated Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail with stones

Lead contamination in this area far exceeds the applicable clean up requirement by more than 150-fold. Even worse, it is clear that additional pollution continues to rain down from the upper cliff face of the Ithaca Falls Overlook area.

As we discussed, I will be following up with local, state and federal authorities to require all of the contamination hazards at Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Falls Overlook/Ithaca Gun to be remediated on a comprehensive basis without any further delay by including all three sites in the National Priority List for Federal Superfund clean up.

Extremely Ill-Considered No Further Action Determination Adopted for the Ithaca Falls Overlook

I wrote to Governor Cuomo last year to request that he: 1) reject an extremely ill-considered No Further Action (NFA) determination for the Ithaca Falls Overlook site and 2) formally ask EPA to include Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Falls Overlook/Ithaca Gun in the National Priority List for Superfund clean up based on continuing contamination hazards and a new solvent intrusion assessment rule.

Walter Hang's 7/17/17 Request that Governor Cuomo Reject the Proposed "No Further Action" Remedy for the Ithaca Falls Overlook, DEC Site #: E755018, 125 Lake Street, Ithaca, NY 14850

I respectfully expressed grave concerns to the Governor, but he adopted the NFA determination despite my well-documented warnings that should have been beyond dispute:

"Adopting a No Further Action proposal would be irresponsible. Tens of thousands of Ithaca residents as well as visitors from all over the world, including very young children, frequent the Ithaca Falls Gorge that is polluted each and every day by contamination raining down from the inadequately remediated Falls Overlook site."

"First, the northern portion of the Falls Overlook site delineated in Figure 1 below remains strewn with coal clinker, shotgun shell remnants, lead pellets and other unmistakable evidence of waste dumping that has not been removed from the "Island" where I first documented massive toxic lead waste nearly 17 years ago.

In particular, the northwestern portion of the Falls Overlook site clearly has large amounts of toxic contaminated debris that should have been removed because the material falls directly into the Ithaca Falls Gorge immediately below. This toxic debris extends down the Ithaca Gorge cliff face that is part of the Falls Overlook site. Adjoining areas of the eastern portion cliff face very likely remain contaminated, but are not easily inspected due to the sheer drop-off."

You can plainly see the extensive coal clinker, shotgun shell remnants and other contaminated debris on the upper cliff face of the Ithaca Falls Overlook. This pollution continuously rains down into the Gorge Trail area.

Evidence of Incomplete Remediation of Toxic Contamination at Ithaca Falls, Ithaca, NY 6/16/17

My letter concluded: "For all these reasons, I believe that the only way that Ithaca Falls Overlook, Ithaca Falls Gorge and Ithaca Gun will be fully investigated and remediated without seemingly endless further delays is to to require your DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation, not in the original] to request that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency list all these sites on the National Priority List for Federal Superfund Clean up.

With that goal in mind, I request that you require your DEC to submit that request to EPA without delay for the reasons spelled out in my recent letter to EPA. Please note the key change in the Hazard Ranking System to address vapor intrusion concerns."

See: Request that EPA Include Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun in the National Priority List for Federal Superfund Clean pursuant to New Subsurface Soil Gas Vapor Intrusion Rule


DEC's Ithaca Falls Overlook NFA must be revoked. I aim to reiterate my request to Governor Cuomo and EPA given the extremely high levels of toxic lead that were recently identified in the Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail area. Widespread solvent contamination that migrated into the adjoining Fall Creek residential area has never been cleaned up. Moreover, many homes have never even been tested for indoor air solvent hazards.

In conclusion, it has been another year of seemingly endless failure to clean up Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Falls Overlook/Ithaca Gun. With the help of you and your dedicated colleagues at EPA Region II, I am hoping that it will be the last.

Don, thank you so much. I apologize for all that you and your colleagues often have to endure. I want you to know that I greatly appreciate all the help that EPA Region II has provided over many, many years to safeguard the health of New Yorkers.

I look forward to speaking to you again soon.

Very best regards,


cc: Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo