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Information about Industrial Pollution and Neighborhoods on and around Ithaca's South Hill

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Today's Main Topics
Morse Chain / EPT Site Dry Cleaning Sites Community Advisory Group
South Hill Toxins Database/Maps
NCR / Axiohm Site Coal Tar Sites Public Meetings
Marcellus Shale
Therm South Hill Elem School Views
Sewers Investigations

East Spencer St Sewer and Stack

Emerson Neighborhood Remedial Action

300 Feet of East Spencer St. Sewer to be replaced with "vented" sewer line - 25-foot stack to be installed at bottom of Turner Place. Blue circle shows the stack location, red lines show sewer. See more details below.


Figure 6A Therm Neighborhood test results

Therm Neighborhood Test Results Released

After Soil Vapor tests in 2008 and 2009 revealed considerable levels of TCE and PCE (PERC), indoor air tests were performed in homes along Pearsall and Crescent Places, as well as Hudson and Columbia Streets.

Cornell "DesignConnect" Team Show South Hill Maps and Tools at December 5th Meeting
A second group of students, working with the Cornell DesignConnect project, is merging data from recent tests for toxins with data in GIS maps, to try to produce a better picture of where and which toxins have been found on South Hill. They presented their project work at the Monday, December 5 meeting of the Community Advisory Group at City Hall. Their final report is here.

"Cornell Green Consulting Group" Presents Emerson Site Ideas at November 17th Meeting
There have been two groups of Cornell Graduate Students working on projects related to Emerson and other South Hill industrial sites this year. One of them, participants in Prof. Francis Vanek's CEE 5910 course,
gave a fascinating look at some possibilities for the Emerson site on the evening of November 17th. They showed the favorable economics of various approaches to transforming part of the site into a "clean energy generation facility for the city of Ithaca."
PDF version (5 MB file) of the slides they presented.
Single-page "Scenario Summary" PDF.
Final Report (3.6 MB file).

Latest Progress Report for EPT On-Site Dual-Phase Extraction System

Common Council Vote to Approve Easement Fails at August 18th Meeting

The amendments and resolution, which had been tabled, were discussed and brought back to the floor for a vote. Council decided unanimously to substitute new "stipulation #9" language (which had been tweaked by WSP, EPT, and the City throughout the day), accepted that amendment, and then voted to table the matter once more. That vote failed, 3-5. The resolution itself was then brought to a vote. The 5-3 vote in favor (Alderpersons Clairborne, Dotson and Myrick voting No) FAILED, as it needed 6 votes to pass. Where things are at this point is not clear. Thanks to all who attended or signed the "coalition letter". We need to keep talking with our friends on Council.  They must be convinced we all feel that the residents of the OU3 deserve more, especially if the DEC accept's EPT's assertion that the neighborhood can't be remediated.


Neighbors protest granting of Easement for East Spencer St. Sewer Work

As reported online in the Ithaca Times, July 27, the Ithaca City Board of Public Works received a petition from East Spencer Street neighbors asking the City to delay granting of an easement required by EPT to proceed with the sewer work. They heard pleas from neighbors about the quality of the air, asking for tests to confirm that the sewer "remedy" would not make things worse.

Strong language, requiring substantial testing, was approved clearly by the BPW and the City Administration Committee when they considered the matter, and they passed that strong requirement on to Council for consideration a week ago. It was presented to Council so quickly that they tabled the matter. Unfortunately, the negotiating process over the last day has resulted in way too many concessions: a loss of testing on demand, and no testing of homes to demonstrate that the "remedy" has worked.

We need to send a strong message to Council that we need them to insist on steps which will protect us, and that it is proper (as voted by the BPW and City Administration Committee) to use the leverage of the required easement to do so. The language of the resolution text now being considered does NOT do this. We should WITHHOLD approval of the easement resolution until it is changed to protect us.

Please consider the facts which Walter Hang spells out clearly in his letter at

WSP (Emerson’s Consultants) Release “90 PERCENT DESIGN” Document for Sewer Work

Dated July 12, 2011, WSP released the “90 PERCENT DESIGN” Remedial Design Report for “Operable Unit No. 3” (The South Hill neighborhood below the Emerson site.)  It is a collection of many documents:

The full document is here.
The text sections are here.
Figures 1-3 are here.
The “Design Drawings” are here.
The Construction Quality Assurance Project plan is here.
The Health and Safety Plan is here.
The Community Air Monitoring Plan (CAMP), revised July 15, is here.

The document spells out the various steps to be taken to excavate about 300 feet of existing sewer from the bottom of Turner Place (Manhole No. 9) down East Spencer Street to Manhole No. 17.  The sewer would be replaced with a new sewer,  surrounded by “highly permeable granular material”, into which a perforated pipe would be installed, with a single exhaust stack located near the NYSEG gas installation, to release the vapors from the sewer bedding.

The stack would be approximately 25 feet in height, with a wind turbine on the top. Neighbors are concerned that the vent stack is at the height of many of their homes’ windows.  That the vapors from the vent stack would be any higher or lower in concentration than the exhaust from the existing mitigation system stacks is not clear, but there would be testing of the stack exhaust on a regular basis until the overall levels are known.

It is distressing that the “remedial action” doesn’t include any testing to see if the new sewer actually reduces (remediates) the toxin vapors which are present in the East Spencer Street area.  The “Remedial Objectives” for this project are to address the three pathways identified for the potential migration of vapors from the sewer lines, including:

“(1) along the sanitary sewer lines;
 (2) along the residential sanitary sewer laterals; and
 (3) within the vertical and horizontal planes of porosity (fractured bedrock) surrounding the sewer lines.”  (page 1)

Without in-home air testing, and testing of the sub-slab vapors under the affected homes, there is no way of knowing that any of these remedial objectives will have been met.


As reported in the New York Times, Walter Hang, President of Toxics Targeting, has made a combination of powerful mapping tools and his firm's toxins data available (for free) at the company web site. These maps allow detailed review of specific addresses and neighborhoods and their proximity to reported toxin sites throughout New York State. Walter and his firm deserve both a "Wow!" and our thanks for making this impressive capability available.


The Community Advisory Group (CAG) concerned with Ithaca’s contaminated sites has been convened to promote greater public participation in cleanup projects and to help citizens and the involved government agencies make better-informed decisions. It is important to note that a CAG does not serve as a decision-making body. It is not a voting entity and does not set policy or make decisions regarding project design and implementation. Instead, a CAG is intended to provide a forum through which a broad and diverse sample of community needs and interests are represented.  Agency staff cutbacks and municipal budget pressures make it essential that we maximize the value of our contacts with the state agencies and with our local officials.

The primary goal of our CAG is to facilitate two-way communication between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of Health, and the City of Ithaca and individuals, groups, and organizations concerned with the contaminated sites in our City.

Area Environmentalists Lose a Very Good Friend: Prof. Jim Gillett dies at 77

Prof. Jim Gillett helped establish "ecotoxicology" as a course of study, and worked in many ways to help diverse groups of people deal with the myriad problems related to toxins and proximity to toxic sites.  Even when in poor health, he came to meetings and hearings, to help all of us understand the many ways that our lives can be affected by toxic trespass.  We remain very grateful for his good work and active interest.  The Cornell Chronicle obituary is here.


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