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Status of investigations into pollution from Therm into downhill neighborhoods

 2008  -  2009  -  2010 -  2011 -  2012

Therm, a metal fabrication facility on Hudson Street Extension, has been dragged (unwillingly) into investigations surrounding the migration of chlorinated solvents and other materials through the network of sewers running down and along South Hill from the 130,000 sq. ft. facility. These sewers join lines running from Ithaca College, the old NCR/Axiohm facility now known as the South Hill Business Campus, and those from the Morse/Emerson site (originally owned and run by Borg Warner).



In 2008, the finger-pointing was taken to a higher level, as Borg Warner and their lawyers retained Roux Associates, consultants who released an evaluation of the EPT site and surrounding areas. They look at the contents of toxins sampled from sanitary sewers at various points on the hill, and develop "Soil Vapor Signatures" which are associated with the various sites. They contend that much of the pollution found down near the bottom of the hill (North of Columbia Street and along East Spencer Street) comes from NCR and Therm, rather than from the EPT site.  Their report appears to ignore the distinction between the City's sanitary sewers and the storm sewers - the storm sewers are the ones into which Morse operations discharged toxins over the years.

The full report is over 64 MB, but it is here for download. The text section alone is here. The data tables are here.  There are no maps of the storm sewers, but these maps show the sanitary sewers and the calculated "Soil Vapor Signatures".  (The JPG files are the smallest in size. The PDF and TIF formats are much larger. The maps are 36"x24" full-size.)

EPT and Surrounding Areas: Historical Sanitary Sewers, Sample Locations
EPT and Surrounding Areas: (Source-)Coded Historical Sanitary Sewers
EPT and Surrounding Areas: Soil Vapor ("Signatures") and Vapor Results

The gist of the consultants' report is that the sewer lines along Columbia Street, which joined with lines from the EPT site at Turner Place (until a few years ago, when the sewer that had run from the South Aurora St. intersection with Columbia St. was redirected to continue downhill along S. Aurora St.), contained toxins bearing "soil vapor signatures" of toxins originating at Therm and the NCR/Axiohm site.

Although their report is considered a study of sewer pollution "off-site" from the Axiohm facility, in 2008, EA Engineering started to study the areas downhill from Therm as well.


The DEC has kindly provided a copy of the May 27, 2010 report by EA Engineering of Soil Vapor tests performed in April and November 2008 and September 2009, downhill from and around the Therm facility.  The most recent tests and newest test sites include the highest soil vapor concentrations yet found in this “Eastern Area” of the South Hill sewers.  Test point SV-19, just East of the end of Crescent Place, showed September 2009 levels of PCE (Tetrachloroethene) at 5000 ug/m^3, and TCE (Trichloroethene) at 450 ug/m^3.  These levels suggest that significant indoor air testing is needed to determine the extent of vapor intrusion into the neighborhood homes. 

The indoor air tests which had been scheduled for the last heating season were postponed until next heating season due to budget cuts.  These tests are still needed, as are tests of homes nearer the high readings at point SV-19.  The full report Addendum, text-only section, and figures-only section are online.  The original report was issued in April 2009 and is discussed (and linked) here.



On November 23, 2010, Ms. Karen Cahill of the Syracuse NYS DEC Office, sent out the following message:

I wanted to make you all aware that the DEC and our contractor, EA Engineering, will be in Ithaca for two weeks beginning Monday 11/29 to conduct the Phase VII soil vapor intrusion testing at private residences in the South Hill neighborhood.  The general area of the testing includes a portion of the following streets:  Columbia Street, Hudson Street, Crescent Place, and Pearsall Place. 

We are grateful that this testing is finally getting started, and that homes downhill from the Therm site will be included. Ever since the release of the high PCE test results at a test well near the up-hill end of Crescent Place, there has been considerable concern about toxin levels in the air inside homes in that area. We look forward to hearing from our neighbors that they have received the details of the tests on their homes. Unlike the efforts for cleaning up the Emerson site and the neighborhoods downhill from that S. Aurora St. site, Therm has yet to accept the designation as Responsible Party, so work is being conducted contractors (EA Engineering) hired by the DEC.



Figure 6A - uphill test results

Figure 6B - downhill results

(Clicking on either map above will show you a PDF version which can be "zoomed" for better readability)

The details with the "Vapor Intrusion Analytical Data" for each "chemical of concern" and each tested structure are here.

Many homes showed low enough test levels that their owners' were advised that their home warranted "No Further Action." Other homes have required additional testing, and special attention has been given to home which have mitigation systems for Radon - some systems were functioning properly, others needed attention.

The early June 2011 report from Karen Cahill (Syracuse DEC) reported:
Phase VII - selected home re-sampling and initial testing of the two added homes was completed by DEC on May 5th. We are awaiting validated results. We met with Therm twice in May, and based on the Phase VII results to date, they have agreed to resample existing onsite monitoring wells and conduct a limited investigation of soil vapor in the vicinity of the most impacted offsite area. Pending these results, DEC will determine if further work is necessary. DEC hopes to have a report finalized by the end of July on the Phase VII results. Any subsequent reports prepared by Therm and/or the DEC will not be referencing "Axiohm Offsite".  
Therm also intends to investigate area around SV-19... DEC has requested these initial investigations and appears as if Therm is going to agree. They are supposed to be getting us a work plan next week and start field work in July.



NYSDEC has kindly provided us with the "PHASE VII SOIL VAPOR INTRUSION SUMMARY REPORT" from EA Engineering, dated "February 2012". It contains results of additional tests performed in May 2011, as well as results from earlier tests. A 3.2 MB PDF of the first 75 pages of this report (containing Text, Figures, and Tables) is here. The "full" report (all that we received from NYSDEC) is an 84 MB PDF with 1392 pages, here.


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