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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

June 20, 2017

Via Electronic Transmission

Honorable Catherine R. McCabe
Acting Region 2 Administrator
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
90 Broadway
New York, NY 10007-1866


Congratulations on being appointed Acting Region 2 Administrator for the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I wish you the very best of luck in your post.

I write today because it is my understanding that on 12/7/2016, EPA adopted a new rule "to add a subsurface intrusion component to the Hazard Ranking System (HRS)..." for sites with soil gas vapor hazards. This rule reportedly took effect on May 22, 2017.

See: Federal Register Notice of the Final Rule - Addition of a Subsurface Intrusion Component to the HRS (PDF)

Reiterated Request That the Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun CERCLIS Site Be Included in the National Priority List (NPL) for Federal Superfund Clean up

On September 13, 2015, I wrote to request that the Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun CERCLIS (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Information System) site (NYN000204292) be included in the NPL due to extensive soil, groundwater and soil gas vapor intrusion hazards that have never been cleaned up to applicable state and federal standards.

My request did not receive a favorable reply because the site reportedly did not score at least 28.5 in the HRS due to the fundamental limitations of that assessment system, notably the failure to address soil gas vapor intrusion hazards.


I write today to reiterate my request due to the EPA's adoption of a new subsurface soil gas vapor intrusion component to the HRS.

Widespread Ithaca Gun Soil Gas Vapor Intrusion Hazards Have Never Been Cleaned Up

Widespread subsurface soil gas vapor hazards have been identified in residential areas adjoining Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun, but have neither been fully delineated nor remediated. There has been no clean up whatsoever of the contaminated factory site that is reportedly the source of a large pollution plume extending Southwest of the facility.

See: Soil Gas Vapor Contamination Identified Adjoining the Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun Site in Ithaca, NY

Please note that the highest groundwater contamination levels were detected at sampling points furthest away from the former gun factory. This supports the conclusion that additional contamination lies downgradient of those sampling points. Thousands of unsuspecting residents live in that area of single-family homes.

Four Botched Clean Up Efforts Failed to Remove Widespread Toxic Pollution at Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun

The Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun site warrants NPL inclusion due to extensive, high-level toxic hazards that have yet to be cleaned up after FOUR inadequate remediation efforts dating back to 2001. The most recent failed clean up effort was reportedly just completed in April, 2017.

Two EPA removal actions (circa 2001 and 2015, respectively) failed to remove extensive toxic soil contamination once and for all. EPA twice cleaned up the Ithaca Gorge, but that area was quickly recontaminated by toxic pollution raining down from the upper south gorge wall where the City of Ithaca failed to remove extensive toxic pollution circa 2014 - 2015, including lead shotgun pellets, shell casing remnants, industrial debris and coal ash and clinker.

See New Photos Documenting: Evidence of Incomplete Remediation of Toxic Contamination at Ithaca Falls, Ithaca, NY 6/16/17

The most recent EPA removal action in 2015 excavated approximately 200 cubic yards of soil and debris from the Ithaca Falls gorge, but left in-place additional contamination with up to 12,000 mg/kg or parts per million (ppm) of lead. That concentration is 30 times the national public health lead protection standard of 400 ppm.

According to EPA's own consultant report, the remediated area was quickly recontaminated with redeposited materials:

The area that EPA remediated has subsequently been buried by massive amounts of toxic contaminated debris migrating from the upper southern gorge wall. Contaminated materials along the upper southern gorge wall as well as on the "island" were inadequately removed TWICE, most recently in 4/17.


Local, state and federal government's on-going failure to clean up Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun is unacceptable and must be resolved. Each and every day local residents and visitors to this extraordinarily popular scenic venue are exposed to toxic contamination that could impact their health. Many visitors to this site are children less than five years old whose parents obviously do not understand the health risks posed by legacy pollution threats that should have been remediated long ago.

It has now been nearly 17 years since I publicly disclosed widespread lead and other toxic hazards at Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun. With all respect, that is an inexcusably long time for a CERCLIS site to evade comprehensive clean up.

The City of Ithaca has a deplorable record of being pathetically inept at cleaning up Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun and many other polluted sites. Its woeful record is beyond dispute and speaks for itself.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recently proposed to undertake No Further Action at the Ithaca Falls Overlook Site within New York's Environmental Remediation Program.

That is irresponsible to say the least, but it is to be expected of an agency that systemically and routinely fails to enforce state clean up standards across the state, even for the largest corporate responsible parties in America.

See: ExxonMobil or Corporate Predecessor Environmental Data Regarding New York State

Against that background, EPA is the last line of defense against toxic hazards at Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun. I implore your agency to complete a comprehensive remediation of this site in order to safeguard public health and the environment without further delay.

Very best regards,

Walter Hang

cc: Honorable Barbara Lifton
Honorable Members of the Ithaca Common Council
Honorable Charles Schumer
Honorable Steven Englebright
Honorable Thomas Reed
Honorable Basil Seggos
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Honorable Thomas F. O'Mara