Working to learn more and bring about change, testing and mitigation
As we can't undo the history of use of the many industrial substances that have been used in the factories near our homes, we are left with the strategic question: what CAN we do now to make our homes and neighborhoods safer for our families? We are NOT helpless in this situation, though at times the enormity of the tasks ahead can feel overwhelming. We are NOT alone, and we are NOT the first neighborhoods to face these problems.
In short, we can LEARN about the toxins themselves: where they are and how they might be removed, neutralized, or avoided. We can ORGANIZE our efforts so that our concerns cannot be ignored by the responsible parties nor by the governmental agencies who should be working on our behalf. We can continue to SPEAK UP and spread the understanding of both the problems and the possible solutions. We should WORK TOGETHER to bring about changes for the better.
The methods being used to determine the spread of the various chemicals from the EPT site include ground water testing and indoor air tests - these tests have been performed on the EPT site, in various EPT buildings, and in a slowly-increasing number of neighborhood homes. The testing process is tedious and tiresome. The results are of questionable value, as they are taken for relatively short periods of time and limited to only certain parts of the year. Still, the State Agencies consider these tests to be an acceptable basis for determining which homes should be considered for mitigation, "further monitoring", or "no further action".
The tests require paperwork by the homeowner (access agreements giving permission to EPT and their consultants, ESC and others) and survey/home inventory reports by ESC (reviewing the physical characteristics of the home and identifying possible sources of VOCs and other chemicals which might affect the test results) before the tests can be performed. The tests involve sampling air (usually for 24 hours) from the home's first floor and basement. If the home has a slab, sub-slab tests should be done as well. The neighborhood's "ambient air" should be tested in the yard of at least one home of those near the one being tested.
After the tests, a wait of MANY weeks is to be expected, as the results slowly tour the desks of various employees at the testing firm, at ESC, at EPT, at NYSDEC and NYSDOH, and are (eventually) released to the homeowner. The reports come with a cover letter from Derek Chase (Emerson Director of Environmental Affairs), a generic diagram of a home, and tables of results of the tests. Most of our neighbors have willingly shared these results, and they are most easily understood through the web site developed by Timothy Weber, which has the toxins database, interactive maps, and many useful links.
At the Public Meeting held in Ithaca Town Hall on January 24, 2008, a question was asked about arranging for home indoor air tests in homes that Emerson and the DEC have determined do not qualify for testing by either EPT nor the DEC. Karen Cahill, DEC Project Manager for South Hill, provided this document from EPT's consultants which describes the approved process for testing. Ms. Cahill's note with this document says:
We are very grateful to Karen Cahill and the DEC for providing this information.
Homes which meet certain criteria (currently, only homes with indoor TCE levels over 0.8 micrograms per cubic meter qualify) are typically offered mitigation by EPT. The nature of the steps taken vary as widely as the construction of our homes and the layout of our basements. Some homes require that concrete slabs be poured to try to seal the basement; others have slabs; all present various difficulties in terms of allowing the entries into the sub-slab area to be drilled so that the installers can have some certainty that most of the sub-slab area air can be removed through pipes installed into holes through the slab. These pipes are joined and vented outside through a ventilation stack, driven by one or more fans. Few of the mitigation systems installed thus far have addressed the problems of groundwater seeping through basement walls, and some of the systems have failed as a result. Even some of the systems which EPT has considered "successes" have discharged so much toxin through the stacks that the homes' indoor air levels now exceed the 0.8 microgram threshold level.
Mitigation is an attempt to make homes livable in spite of the toxins surrounding them. Given the difficulty in locating the toxins, which continue to migrate through all of South Hill, efforts to mitigate are needed, but they don't solve the problem of the toxins present in our neighborhood. The long-term answer is remediation - fully removing or deactivating the toxins from the soil and water.
While traditional methods for remediating chlorinated solvents include pump-and-treat systems such as the one that has been (in theory) removing TCE from the EPT Fire Reservoir area for well over a decade, and excavation of contaminated soil, some new "In Situ" (in-place) technologies have been used in toxin sites with varying degrees of success. Two of these technologies include "In-Situ Bioremediation" (ISB) and "In-Situ Chemical Oxidation" (ISCO). Bioremediation has been the subject of study at Cornell in labs run by Professor James Gossett. Professor Ruth Richardson continues study in ways in which existing microbes can be "encouraged" to multiply and consume on-site toxins.
source of incredibly thorough evaluations of these technologies is the
web site of Guidance Documents
of the Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council. These documents
are large, but very worthwhile. You may find them easier to handle by
downloading the entire files and saving each to your hard drive so you
can review them (with Acrobat Reader) without frequent waiting for the
document to be copied from via the web. Particularly useful are the documents
on In-Situ Chemical Oxidation
- ISCO-2 is
the most recent, and the documents on In-Situ
Derek E. Chase - Director of Environmental Affairs, Emerson, 8000 West Florissant Avenue, P.O. Box 4100, St. Louis, MO 63136-8506. Toll-free phone: 866-265-0634. Fax: 314-553-1365. E-mail: email@example.com
Karen A. Cahill , NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Remediation, Region 7, 615 Erie Boulevard West, Syracuse, NY 13204-2400. Phone: 315-426-7551. Fax: 315-426-2653. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julia Kenney, NYS Department of Health, 547 River Street, Room 300, Troy, NY 12180-2216 Phone: 518-402-7860 or 800-458-1158 ext 27860. E-mail: email@example.com
Tompkins County Health Department, Environmental Health, 55 Brown Road, Ithaca, NY 14850. Phone 607-274-6688. E-mail: LCameron@tompkins-co.org
To discuss the lawyers with whom we have been talking, please contact us
To see the lawyers with whom RAGE (Endicott) talked and worked, check here.
sites with good ideas:
TCE Blog - Lots of news (nationwide), resources and ideas. Check out the links along the right and left sides of the main page. You could spend days here and not stop learning new things.
Junction Citizens for Clean Water & Clean Air - They're fighting
many of the same battles we are. Their site has a great blend of news,
activism, and links to resources.
Please suggest other sites that should be listed. Thank you for caring.