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DEC, environmental firms disagree on status of Ithaca Falls gorge


ITHACA — State officials say the cleanup effort at an Ithaca natural area may be nearing completion, but the president of a local environmental firm disagrees.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently proposed a “no further action” remedy for the Ithaca Falls area, implying that they view work to decontaminate the site as mostly complete. The Falls have been cleaned up several times over the years due to worries about lead pollution from the former Ithaca Gun factory site.

Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting in Ithaca says there’s no way the cleanup is finished yet, and other people need to speak out if they feel the same.

“The public has to speak with one voice,” he said. “We have to get our local officials to say it’s basically unconscionable that we would allow this known contamination problem to go without further cleanup.”

A public comment period on the DEC’s move lasts through next week, and Hang says he hopes to make the most of it.

“When we have our coalition letter about the very detailed comments, we’re going to try to get everyone and their brother and sister to sign on,” he said. “We’re going to try to make sure the DEC doesn’t have the ability to walk away from this incomplete remedial effort.”

The last time the gorge was cleaned up was in 2015, which Hang called an excellent operation, but one that didn’t fix the overall problem. He says he’s continuing to petition to have the Ithaca Falls listed as a federal priority site for remediation.