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Industrial development and activity, toxin discoveries and responses


A wide variety of historic maps of Ithaca and Tompkins County are available from the County GIS site.

Good histories of the early years in the area are available through the archives and bookstore area of The History Center in Tompkins County. Mary Tomlan assembled a collection of documents at The History Center discussing the City Reservoir on South Hill, which eventually was filled in and became the Morse "Service Building", housing the R&D Labs and a variety of offices. Some of the older pictures show the fountain, which lives on only as the name of the street "Fountain Place", at the top of Turner Place, just below the plant.

Turner Place was originally known as (South) Tioga Street, and was renamed to recognize Samuel and Ebenezer Turner, who owned much of the property between that street, South Cayuga Street, and what is now East Spencer Street. These properties are shown in the 1905 map by K.P Crandall, which has been part of the deeds and mortgage records for many residents of lower South Hill.

Two good books (available at The History Center) on the early years are: "A Short History of Tompkins County", by Jane Marsh Dieckmann (1986), and "Ithaca's Neighborhoods" edited by Carol U. Sisler, Margaret Hobbie, and Jane Marsh Dieckmann (1988).


"Sanborn" map of Morse Chain Site, early 1960's. One of a series of maps of Ithaca (and many other places) produced for fire insurance purposes. Paper copies of many of these maps are available at The History Center in Tompkins County. Digital versions are available from Cornell University Libraries.

June 28, 1962 Letter from Frank R. Liguori, P.E., Sanitary Engineer (FRL) of the Tompkins County Department of Health (TCDOH) to Morse Chain Company (MCC) confirming complaints of "a milky waste" "discharge of cutting oils to a storm sewer which reaches Six Mile Creek near the Cayuga Street bridge." He states "Considerable quantities of cutting oils drip from the bins onto the earth dock area and hence seep into the storm sewer." He requests that abatement plans be submitted by August 31, 1962.

April 19, 1963 letter from A.L. Ferrel, Plant Engineer (ALF) at MCC to FRL/TCDOH submitting drawings for a tank to contain the oil discharge. He states "We estimate approximately 300 gallons/day of oil waste to be collected."

April 25, 1963 letter from F.J. Laverty, Superintendent of Public Works for the City of Ithaca, to ALF/MCC relaying a formal complaint of oil in Six Mile Creek and the Inlet.

May 10, 1966 letter from Michael Conner, Plant Engineer at MCC, to FRL/TCDOH, acknowledging that "oil from our punching scrap has seeped through the ledge rock and is collecting in the gutters along Spencer and Wood Streets." New scrap storage facilities are expected as part of the 160,000 square foot plant addition to be completed during 1967.

May 13, 1966 letter from FRL/TCDOH to NYS Department of Health, describing the "rather serious problem involving the storage of metal shavings, chips and stampings, which are impregnated with cutting oils" and that the collection system has "not proved to be adequate." "The problem is aggravated by precipitation which helps to carry the oil into the ground and overloads the collection facility."

June 3, 1968 Handwritten TCDOH notes on water testing and investigation of water passing through a garage at 125 South Hill Terrace, apparently coming from the Morse parking area, with oil seepage and "milky" water.

August 6, 1968 "Memorandum for the Record" by FRL/TCDOH discussing recent waste oil spill that had polluted Six Mile Creek. MCC proposed shipping metal chippings to Wallace Junk Yard for handling. FRL states "that Wallace Junk Yard already had a problem handling Smith-Corona and National Cash Register chippings, and that the material is simply deposited on the ground creating oil pollution of the ground and occasionally reaching Cayuga Inlet… Something approaching 500,000 tons of chippings and stampings are involved each year."

August 6, 1968 letter from FRL/TCDOH to "Carpenter's Backhoe and Dozer Service, Inc." requesting details of the firm's "arrangement with the Morse Chain Company for the removal and disposal of rather large quantities of waste cutting oil" which is "dumped into excavated trenches [off Bostwick Road] from which the oil percolates into the ground."

January 31, 1969 TCDOH "Memorandum for the Record" describing the drainage of oil from "waste chips, shavings, and other metal scraps from the Morse Chain Company". The scraps are drained about half a day before being deposited on the ground. The oil storage container appeared to be approximately three-quarters full, about 6,000 gallons - representing about four months of operation.

September 30, 1981 State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit Application including Industrial Chemical Survey showing (page 2) annual usage and amounts on-hand of Xylene, 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, Toluene, Copper (as Copper Cyanide), Cyanide (as Sodium Cyanide), Trichloroethylene, and various commercial solvents and chemicals. Describes product lines (roller chain, timing chain, drive chain, and electronic controllers - page 4), the water/effluent discharges into Six Mile Creek (pages 5-14) including a "Schematic of Water Flow" and oil/grease content.

January 23, 1987 Radian Proposal for Environmental Assistance to Morse Industrial Corp. (Introduction and Background) detailing the presence of TCE in the fire reservoir, and describing the solvents which were in use and had been used (mineral spirits, Freon degreaser, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, TCE, and "safety solvent") and the practice of on-site distillation of TCE to allow reuse. TCE has been found in both waste oil and in wastewater, as well as in the fire reservoir.

July 13, 1987 Radian Preliminary Environmental Assessment of the Fire Reservoir, describing site history and operations (as in the Proposal), mentioning the copper and cadmium plating, wire drawing, acid etching and pickling. Waste oil is a combination of two types of machine oil and a variety of degreasers. TCE was used starting in 1967 and reaching peak usage of 1200 gallons a week between 1976 and 1978. Numerous reasons are given for the failure of efforts to cleanup the fire reservoir and the inability to find the primary source(s) of the volatile organics, which are detected in soil samples, ditches, and monitoring wells downgradient from the plant site.

December 8, 1989 NYS Dept. of Health (NYSDOH) letter to NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) considering the Radian proposal incomplete as it fails to adequately monitor and address pollution of air inside homes near the plant, and proposes only short term sampling for contaminants. "The homeowner … has the right to expect that air within their home will not be affected by contaminants from a neighboring hazardous waste site and we do not wish to interfere with that right."

December 19, 1989 NYSDEC letter to Radian discussing concerns about Remedial Investigation Stages 1 & 2 for EPT. Carl Cuipylo reports suspicious degreasing activities and oily runoff, observed in person. He is concerned about the chromium from the plant found in many wells, suggesting that the elevated levels of TCE and other VOCs are from either additional sources, or carried via an additional transport mechanism. He suggests that the results in the various wells do NOT help to define the extent of the toxins plumes, and that the longer the remediation process is allowed to take, the greater the threat to public health and safety, and the greater the cost of effectively mitigating this contamination problem.

January 2, 1990 NYSDOH letter to NYSDEC expresses a "consensus" view that "significant concentrations of contaminants remain inground, [and] contaminant migration pathways have not been comprehensively evaluated". It calls for a groundwater remediation program, more test wells at different depths to track discharge, mapping of seeps along Six Mile Creek, soil gas testing of at least two points in each residential lot, installation of remedial steps to eliminate the entry of gases in the affected homes, and identification of additional "hot spots" under the plant. The potential for vertical migration of toxins through fractures and bedding plane separations down to roughly 150 feet is mentioned, raising the possibility of a "continual source and little attenuation in the bedrock regime."

April 1, 1991 NYSDOH Interoffice Memorandum on the identification of homes below the Morse site to be tested for vapor migration, and homes on West Hill to be used as "controls" for the test procedure. The memo states "Morse has been uncooperative in terms of sampling homes, however, they have begun an IRM aimed at removing the highly contaminated groundwater". There is a map showing the area in which the test houses are located, as well as test results from the ten South Hill "sample" homes, and the four West Hill "Control" homes. Half the test houses had indoor TCE levels greater than 1 microgram per cubic meter. Two of the control houses had indoor TCE readings above 1, one control home had an outdoor TCE level of 1.0.

October 18, 1991 NYSDOH letter to property owner of one of the "sample" homes, reporting the results of the tests (performed in May 1991, and written up in July 1991) stating that "Health effects are not expected at the levels in your house" - even though the indoor TCE levels were 46 in the basement and 4.6 on the first floor. A table from a 1988 EPA study is attached, suggesting that "Average" Indoor Concentrations of TCE are 7.2 micrograms per cubic meter, though the "Median" is 0.67.

August 1994 Feasibility Study Report by Radian details results of groundwater samples for VOCs, July 1988 - November 1989, for Monitoring Wells 1, 2, and 3, at varying depths (to 100 feet), showing great variation in the TCE levels found, with 1988 values as high as 280,000 micrograms per liter, and 1989 values as high as 1,100,000 micrograms per liter.

December 1994 NYSDEC Record of Decision - this 31-page document summarizes the site history and assessment, the factors leading to the approval of two major remedial steps: a system of "Two Phase Groundwater Vacuum Extraction wells" to replace the interim pump-and-treat system, and a "soil excavation program to remove petroleum contaminated soil from the scrap conveyor/loading area." In addition to the "Operation, Maintenance and Monitoring (OM&M)" of the wells, "the ongoing vadose zone sampling program will be completed. Should the sampling indicate a problem in the vadose zone which may impact human health, mitigative measures will be developed and implemented."

There are discussions (report pages 9-13) of the Geology and Hydrology, Groundwater (TCE below the fire reservoir at 470,000 parts per billion), Fire Reservoir, Scrap Conveyor/Loading Area, Surface Water and Sediments, Interim Remedial Measures, and Human/Environmental Exposure Pathways. The "potential remedial alternatives" are described and evaluated (report pages 15-22) with financial analysis of the costs. Appendix A includes a summary of comments asked at the September 13, 1994 public meeting on the proposed remedy, and includes questions and "the State's response".


The "pump and treat" system installed as part of the 1994 Record of Decision was thought to be adequate by DEC, who posted this entry in the Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites in NY - Vol. 7, pg. 7-221.  Despite finding that "Monitoring wells located downgradient of the reservoir have shown high levels of volatile organics (TCE at 180 ppm).",  and that the toxins plume "is a threat to the surrounding environment", it concludes that "The remedy (operation of the two phase extraction system) is performing properly and is effective."


The groundwater extraction system specified in the 1994 Record of Decision (above) continued to be used, and results were monitored and readings from one well (MW-3-31, located East of the top of South Cayuga Street, between the Fire Reservoir and the NYSEG Substation) are summarized in this February 2004 report prepared by Radian. The wild fluctuations from season to season and year to year, seem to be a clear indication that there's a lot more TCE than could have been held on only the fire water reservoir.

In May of 2004, Walter Hang, President of Toxics Targeting, Inc. held a Press Conference below the Morse Plant discussing the first of two letters he would send to Emerson and to the NYSDEC, referencing many historic documents and maps his firm had collected and prepared. Mr. Hang deserves considerable credit for sounding the alarm on these issues, and for being way "ahead of the curve" in terms of understanding the complex nature of the problem we face.

Many of the documents that have been issued and discussed are online in the "Files" area of the Ithaca-SHIP Yahoo! group. While you need to join the group to get access to the Files and other group features, you can choose to receive NO e-mail from the group, if that is your preference. There is a lot of material in the Files area. This website ( was started when we realized that we were collecting more material than could be held in the Yahoo! Files area.

Similarly, all of the air testing data that neighbors have shared (almost all owners have shared or offered to share their data) has been entered into a special set of databases, maintained by Timothy J. Weber, in the "SHIP Toxic Chemical Database" site. Many of the maps you may have seen in news stories about this issue have been generated using the data and mapping tools available in this extraordinary site. Please check it out. No group membership or login is required.

Following Mr. Hang's letters and responding to the attention drawn to the high levels of toxins still present at the EPT site, South Hill Residents sent this letter (dated May 25, 2004) to NYSDEC, NYSDOH, EPA, and Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson calling for investigation into the TCE problems and the failure to properly remediate them, and requesting cleanup without delay.  The letter echoed Mr. Hang's call for full disclosure of the industrial dumping history and practices, for a comprehensive study of the health effects of the toxins,  and for immediate communication with the affected residents.

On June 15, 2004 Emerson issued this "Public Notice" to S. Cayuga Street and Spencer Street Residents describing 8-hour canister tests to begin on June 16 with the installation of monitoring points to sample vadose zone gas.  They concede "We are working closely with the state to remedy a situation that was present when Emerson purchased Morse Chain in 1983.", but contend "these response actions are adequate and in compliance with the NYSDEC Record of Decision."

On June 16, 2004, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton sent this letter to South Hill residents describing her efforts to organize a public meeting to discuss the EPT site concerns,  and her contacts with EPT and DEC to ensure their involvement.

On July 2, 2004, this letter was sent by Walter Hang, President of Toxics Targeting, Inc., to Erin Crotty, NYSDEC Commissioner, providing more details about the TCE contamination on and around the EPT site, and the history of contaminated oil seeping from the site into the neighborhood and into Six Mile Creek.  He cites the recommendations made by NYSDOH in Jan. 1990, which have yet to be implemented: sampling of seeps along the creek, testing and mitigation efforts for affected residences, and studies to explore the "possibility that there are higher concentrations under the plant."

July 7, 2004 Letter from Scott P. Haitz, Senior Project Director for Environmental Strategies Consulting, LLC (ESC) to Carl Cuipylo (Syracuse DEC) describing the vadose zone sampling tests and results obtained on June 17, 2004.  Test results for TCE, Tetrachloroethene, and 1,1,1-Trichloroethane along South Cayuga Street are far above NYSDOH "background" concentrations.

Notice from NYSDEC, NYSDOH, and Tompkins County Health Departments of the Public Meeting to be held on August 4.  The tests performed so far show the need for further remediation and investigation.  "While the existing groundwater treatment system has reduced contaminant levels, further reduction is appropriate."  The agencies suggested that test results should be available six weeks after sample collection.  The two-page notice also included a map of various sampling wells and test points.

Notice from EPT about the August 4 "Public Information Session ".

Letter from NYSDEC Regional Engineer, Mary Jane Peachey, PE, to Ithaca Common Council Member Pam Mackesey and South Hill Residents responding to the residents' May 25, 2004 letter to Commissioner Crotty.  A public meeting will be held on August 4; they are reviewing the reclassification of the site from a "4" (closed) to "2" (significant threat to environment); the DEC "expects Emerson to more aggressively investigate and remediate site-related contamination"; health studies and evaluations are the purview of NYSDOH.

Letter from Gary A Litwin, Director, Bureau of Environment Exposure Investigation, NYS DOH, to "concerned citizens" conceding that 1991 tests showed three homes with soil vapor contamination by site-related chemicals, and that EPT did not carry out the soil vapor testing required by the 1994 Record of Decision.  However, he states "We do not plan to conduct health studies specific to this site."  Attached to his letter was the May 2004 revision of the NYSDOH four-page FAQ on Soil Vapor Intrusion.

3-page letter from DEC Engineering Geologist Carl Cuipylo (with 16 pages of attachments) to Scott Haitz (ESC Project Director), responding to August 2, 2004 Indoor Air Assessment Work Plan..  Mr. Cuipylo criticizes the detection limits used in the June 2004 testing as being too high and requests that ALL the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) detected in test be included in the reports to provide information about the interference that other compounds may be causing.  He states that the locations to be sampled need to be expanded, and that comprehensive testing of the ambient air and subslab (or subsurface in the absence of a slab) test most be performed.  The attachments include the NYSDOH "Indoor Air Sampling & Analysis Guidance" (08/01/01),  "Indoor Air Quality Questionnaire and Building Inventory" forms, "Substructure Soil Gas Sampling" instructions, and the NYSDEC "Guidance for the Development of Data Usability Summary Reports".

Report by Tom West, Assistant City Engineer, to South Hill Residents on subsurface soil investigations performed August 11, 2004, showing that samples from the Cayuga Street embankment, soil, and water all reflected compounds below cleanup standards.  Among the chemicals found were Tetrachloroethene, Toluene, and Chloroform.

Letter from Carl Cuipylo (DEC) to Scott Haitz (ESC) reviewing July 28, 2004 Supplemental Off Site Investigation Work Plan.  He specifies inspection and repair of several suspect wells, and requests certain new wells into the "unconsolidated overburden", as well as tests of the seep behind 123 South Hill Terrace, the seep at 514 South Cayuga Street, the cistern at the upper end of South Cayuga, and of the artesian well behind 212 Wood Street.  He refers to "the persistent elevated concentrations of contaminants remaining in the on site groundwater and those found in the off site vadose zone and nearby residences."

Letter from Derek Chase (EPT) to Carl Cuipylo responding to the Nov. 9 review of the Supplemental Investigation Work Plan agreeing to most of the DEC points, but refusing to investigate the artesian well as it is "beyond the study area".

Letter from James Burke (DEC) accepting the response by EPT to their review and indicating that DEC will test the artesian well and sample some wells of particular concern.


NYS Department of Health "Public Comment Draft" of Soil Vapor Intrusion background, testing, and regulations. Items discussed include the timing of tests:  "A vapor intrusion investigation may also be conducted outside of the heating season. However, the results may not be used to rule out exposures.  For example, results indicating "no further action" or "monitoring required" must be verified during the heating season to ensure these actions are protective during the heating season as well."    
The oft-cited "Decision Matrix" is part of this document (Sec. 3.4). 
For the proper installation of mitigation systems: 
"To avoid entry of subsurface vapors into the building, the vent pipe's exhaust must be
  i. above the eave of the roof (preferably, above the highest eave of the building at least 12 inches above the surface of the roof)
  ii. at least 10 feet above ground level,
  iii. At least 10 feet away from any opening that is less than 2 feet below the exhaust point, and
  iv. 10 feet from any adjoining or adjacent buildings, or HVAC intakes or supply registers."

"When people have been or may be exposed to contamination, providing them with accurate and timely information about those exposures is extremely important."

February 25, 2005 Letter from DEC "Site Control Section " to EPT, with notification of the plant site's reclassification from 4 to 2 (Significant Hazard to Environment).

Letter from James Burke (DEC) to Derek Chase (EPT) calling for expansion of the indoor air study area to include areas west of Spencer Street, including "the area bordered by Albany, Wood, Plain and Elmira Roads."  A second letter, dated the same day, calls for more comprehensive reporting of monitoring well data, including all analytic sampling from 1995-present.

DEC-prepared slides for public meeting. Review of late 2004 and early 2005 activities. Phase I and II results show need for Phase III.  Site reclassified from 4 to 2 "based on indoor air results".

March 11, 2005 Letter from ESC to DEC detailing plans for testing the VOC emissions related to the operation of a sub-slab depressurization system at 126 South Hill Terrace", to "evaluate the potential affect on ambient air quality".

Letter from Derek Chase (EPT) to James Burke (DEC) detailing the results of the additional Ground Water test wells tested on Feb. 25, claiming that these results (as well as the prior air sample results) show that "there is no technical basis for expanding the current study area at this time."

Letter from James Burke (DEC) to Scott Haitz (ESC) requesting changes in the proposed Preliminary Onsite Remedial Investigation Work Plan.  More detail is desired, especially involving those places to be tested and their relation to areas identified in prior studies.  ESC is instructed to use a lower detection limit for TCE (0.25 ug/m^3 rather than the 0.82 ug/m^3 used in Phase I and II.  Mr. Burke also comments, "The statement that the 2-phase system is "containing" VOCs cannot be confirmed presently due to the lack of a historical offsite monitoring network.

Letter from James Burke (DEC) to Brian Silfer (ESC) about the DEC and EPA review of the "Drum Recovery / Soil Sampling Report"; asks that this report be incorporated in the "onsite investigation" EPT has proposed for other purposes.

On April 21, 2005, a "Public Hearing on Vaporization of Contamination from Soil and Groundwater into Indoor Air" was conducted by members of the NYS Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation at the Ithaca Town Hall. Testimony was received from Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson, NYSDEC Deputy Commissioner Carl Johnson, NYSDOH Director G. Anders Carlson,, Cornell Professors Tammo Steenhuis, Lawrence Cathles and James Gillett, SUNY-Binghamton Professor James Dix, Broome Community College Professor Bruce Oldfield, Toxics Targeting President Walter Hang, Environmental Attorney Ken Kamlet, IBM Employee James Little, and several Ithaca area residents who have been involved in the local pollution remediation efforts. The Ithaca Hearing Summary is here. The Committee's final report (released February 1, 2006) is here.

Ithaca Journal articles about the hearing are here and here. An Editorial is here.

On May 4, 2005, Ithaca's Common Council passed a resolution calling for full disclosure (by Emerson and Borg Warner) of all toxic substances known to have been used in the plant, and of all spills of such substances. For the text of the Resolution, see pages 26 and 27 of the Council Minutes. The Ithaca Journal article on the meeting is here.

Letter (May 11, 2005) from Scott Haitz (ESC) to James Burke (DEC) reports the Feb. 2005 sampling results for offsite GW monitoring wells around the EPT facility, which found no significant levels of any chemicals of concern.  Retests in April 2005  and additional wells tested then also showed no significant concentrations of any chemicals of concern.  EPT proposes more wells at the uphill end of South Cayuga Street and also proposes to conduct an electrical resistivity (ER) imaging geophysical survey with dipole arrays of electrodes spaced 3 meters apart.

Letter (June 2, 2005) from James Burke (DEC) to Derek Chase (EPT) regarding the March 2005 proposals for Aquifer Testing and GW Evaluation of the Remediation area.  Mr. Burke acknowledges that there will be some value to the proposed pump tests, but feels it will be necessary to review all site data to properly understand the effectiveness of any proposed changes to the recovery system.  He states, "A major issue is the lack of any one time assessment of all possible data collection points.  The Department has put together a snapshot of the site based on data from different time frames and although the Department can achieve a reasonable picture of site conditions, it is uncertain how accurate this picture is or how conditions change over time with relationship to one another.  This site lacks comprehensive periodic monitoring.  Although several of the wells in the immediate area of the extraction wells have been monitored regularly, there is no periodic monitoring over the entire site and affected off site areas from which to evaluate trends over time."  He also rebukes EPT for considering the fire reservoir to be the sole source for the on site groundwater contamination.

Letter (June 21, 2005) from James Burke (DEC) to Derek Chase (EPT) regarding the Electrical Resistivity (ER) tests EPT has proposed.  DEC wants more test points on the plant site itself.  Mr. Burke also reminds EPT that previously-requested detail for monitoring wells on and off the site property still has not been received.

Letter (also June 21, 2005) from James Burke (DEC) to Derek Chase (EPT) regarding the expansion of the air test study area.  Mr. Burke states, "Through negotiation and counter-proposals, agreement has been reached in regard to the resampling of specific homes, an expansion into additional homes, and a vapor point installation/sampling project west of Geneva Street."  As for EPT's contention that no further home tests are needed west of Spencer St., he says, "That monitoring wells in the western neighborhood showed no detectable levels of site-related VOCs cannot be used as definitive proof that vapor intrusion is not an issue.  It is one piece of evidence."

Letter (also June 21, 2005) from James Burke (DEC) to Derek Chase (EPT) regarding the May 11th proposal for tests in and around the R&D ("Service") Building at the top of Turner Place.  He states that the proposed tests "will not sufficiently define or evaluate groundwater quality downgradient from the R & D Building" .  He requests that GW levels be included in data for all sampling events, and that the "seep" north of the building be analyzed and included in the R&D report.

A Public Meeting was held June 22, 2005 to discuss the results from the first Phase II indoor air tests and to announce the expansion of the test area for Phase III, adding homes north of Hillview Place along both sides of Turner Place, both sides of South Hill Terrace, and on the "uphill" portion of the 100-block of East Spencer Street. The Ithaca Journal's site has both preview and wrap-up articles.

During the summer of 2005, It was announced that Emerson would hire consultants to study the "Electrical Resistivity" of the areas below the plant, to try to identify various features under the surface.

Report from ESC to DEC on the Summer 2005 "Supplemental Groundwater Investigation".  The general flow within the shallow bedrock aquifer is to the northwest.  "The overall pattern of flow generally mimics the surface topography, with a steep gradient observed between the EPT facility and West Spencer Street (South Hill) and a flatter gradient west of West Spencer Street."  Newly-installed Monitoring Well 32-B, less than 200 feet above the South Hill Terrace intersection on South Cayuga Street, showed a TCE level of 200 ug/L as well as 160 ug/L of DCE, cis-1,2,-dichloroethene (a product of TCE degradation.)

Report from Forrest Environmental Services, Inc. on the Electrical Resistivity (ER) imaging tests performed at the EPT site in early July 2005 and again in late September 2005.  The report describes the theory of the dipole arrays and measurements, and how they suggest patterns of water and different substances under the ground surface.  The results indicate various "conductive anomalies" which "appear to be saturated fractures."

A somewhat fleshed-out version of the FESI report which states, "The size and position of the mapped features in the resulting profiles may be slightly offset from their actual locations in the subsurface but still represent the overall pattern of bedrock features and, thus, are consistent with the approach of a low resolution survey of the site." "The results of the geophysical survey reveal a complex geologic and hydrogeologic network."  "This preferential flow through the openings often results in greater groundwater flow velocities (as compared to flow through the rock matrix) and can yield unexpectedly tortuous flow paths depending upon the level of connectivity between the various openings in the rock.  The pathways by which the ground water flows through bedding plane fractures, joints, faults, or all of the above at the EPT facility is not directly addressed by this survey."  (The graphic results are here.)

In an "Onsite Assessment", released on December 13, 2005 (links to document and components of it below), ESC reviews various maps and previous environmental reports to try to piece together the history of operations in the various buildings.  "The solvent TCE, was reportedly used to clean metal parts and scrap metal in conveyor type vapor degreasers located on the ground floor of the main plant building (Building 4 - 507 Degreasing Department).  Only one of three areas requiring "oily soil remediation" was treated to a point that it met applicable standards.  SVOCs and PCBs were found in the soil remaining after various corroded drums ("discovered" in Dec. 2004) and other pieces of scrap were removed.  Activities once performed in various sections of the plant (mostly no longer used) include solvent degreasing and recovery, copper and cadmium plating.  One degreasing using was the "source of an unknown amount of solvent released to the sanitary sewer system", though its exact location is unknown.  Oil leaking from scrap was captured in scrap loading area but there were discharges which were detected in the South Cayuga St. sewer and in the outcrops along West Spencer Street. There was a "Cyanide Room Drainage Trench", and acid pickling tanks.  There were coal piles and four "below grade oil quench pits" which are no longer in service, though a fifth quench oil pit is still in use.  Various underground storage tanks are no longer in use and have been closed in accordance with NYSDEC regulations.  Many of the aboveground storage tanks still remain in service, but ten tanks, including a 100,000-gallon fuel oil tank, have been removed.  Potential migration of chemicals from offsite sources (including Therm, NCR/Axiohm, and various other spill sites) is also reported.  Test samples in the Axiohm disposal area show high levels of TCE, cis-1,2-DCE, vinyl chloride, SVOCs and metals.  21 specific "Areas of Concern" throughout the EPT site are detailed, as are the sewer lines down Turner Place and South Cayuga Street, and "seven potential migration pathways" identified on old maps.  ESC states that their August 2005 tests suggest that the R&D building (built on top of a former City Reservoir) is no longer an Area of Concern.
You may view or download:
The full document (12.5 MB)
Report Text
Figures (including map of Areas of Concern)
Environmental Database Report (The names of databases reviewed)
EDR Radius Map - Findings (Details on spills and incidents)
Government Records Searched
GEOCHECK Physical Settings Source Records
Sanborn Map Report
EDR Historical Topographical Maps


Slides from EPT presentation at the Jan. 25, 2006 Public Meeting.  Overviews were presented on the various investigations performed during 2005, including R&D air and slab tests, GW tests, the Geophysical Survey, the Onsite Assessment results, and the expansion of the Study area for the Phase IV testing: homes on lower Turner Place, Pleasant Street, and East Spencer St.

Description of plan to investigate soil surrounding the two sanitary sewer lines running down Turner Place from the EPT site - one called the 1878 Line and the other called the 1979 Line.  There would be 24 borings just to the west of each of the lines, spaced about 100 feet apart, with soil samples analyzed in the field for VOCs using a photo ionization detector and then shipped to a lab for further analysis.

Letter from ESC to DEC reporting the results of Nov. 18, 2005 vadose zone tests performed along the "NCR sewer" line which runs downhill on the east side of the plant site.  The highest values found were for TCE with a reading of 477 ug/m^3 at the downhill end, near where the line runs to South Aurora Street, and 536 ug/m^3 at the uphill end where it enters the EPT site.

"Vapor Intrusion of Toxic Chemicals: An Emerging Public Health Concern" - Report by NYS Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation on their investigations and hearings on the issue of vapor intrusion across NY State.  The report contains a status summary, findings, and recommendations.  Details on the Hearings held in Endicott, Ithaca, and Hopewell Junction are included, as are comments submitted on draft proposals.  Among the report's conclusions:
 - The New York State air guideline for TCE of 5.0 mcg/m^3 is not based on the most protective assumptions supported by science.
 - The movement of VOCs is difficult to predict accurately, and seasonal and day-to-day variation in the factors that influence vapor intrusion make it difficult to accurately measure the true concentration of VOCs under foundations and in indoor air.
 - The costs of monitoring and mitigation are comparable.
 - DOH should revise its current indoor air guideline for TCE to reflect the most protective assumptions about toxicity and exposure supported by science.
 - DEC and DOH should adopt a general presumption that mitigation will be implemented for any structure where detectable VOC contamination is measured under the sub-slab or in indoor air and evidence exists that such contamination may be caused by vapor intrusion.
 - Accelerated and aggressive cleanup of the contamination causing vapor intrusion, including the pulling back of groundwater plumes, should become routine practice at all vapor intrusion sites.

Report from ESC to DOH on the sub-slab and indoor air tests performed in the EPT site buildings, Dec. 12-13, 2005.  "TCE was detected in subslab soil gas samples at concentrations between 3.5μg/m3 (main level Building 6A) and 3,800 μg/m3 (basement, Building 34).  Indoor air samples contained between 0.328 μg/m3 (main level, Building 34) and 12.8 μg/m3 (basement, Building 4) of TCE.  PCE was detected in subslab soil gas samples between 2.96 μg/m3 (basement, Building 24) and 1,700 μg/m3 (basement, Building 34).  No PCE was detected in indoor air samples from Buildings 13B, 34 (main level), and 35, while levels in the remaining buildings ranged from an estimated concentration of 0.689 μg/m3 (Buildings 33 and 34) to 1,200 μg/m3 in Building 3."

ESC Report to DEC on the January 2006 air samples taken in the R&D Building.  PCE and TCE were found in all indoor air samples at levels below the NYSDOH guidance values, though the .819 ug/m^3 TCE value found in the basement would have qualified for mitigation under the standards EPT is using for area homes

Sample letter from Derek Chase explaining that EPT was reducing the threshold level of TCE in a home's indoor air to qualify for mitigation.

Sample letter from Derek Chase offering a mitigation system to the owner of a qualifying property.  Also included are the forms for Landlord and Tenant to sign, for use with rental properties.

Tom DiNapoli is the NYS Comptroller now, but he was the Chair of the NYS Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.  This document contains his comments on draft regulations for the Environmental Remediation Program, with references to needed changes in soil remediation policies to require stricter limits on toxins and other compounds which are allow to remain in soil and groundwater after cleanup operations.

Letter from Derek Chase (EPT) explaining how EPT will contribute $12 each month to be paid to NYSEG toward the cost of operating the mitigation systems they've installed.

Agenda and Executive Summary for presentation by Cornell BEE/EAS471 course participants to public given at Ithaca City Hall on May 23, 2006.  The presentation was made to summarize and explain the final report, which is online here.

Flyer advertising the appearance of Erin Brockovich for a talk on TCE and advocacy to be given at GIAC.  The event took place on June 1, after travel delays forced rescheduling.

"A Historical and Technical Review and Analysis of TCE Contamination in the South Hill Area of Ithaca, New York" - A report to the Citizens of South Hill by students in BEE/EAS471 with input from faculty and citizens of Ithaca.  This is the final version of the course's term project.

ESC Responses to DEC Comments on the July 2005-January 2006 Semiannual Progress Report

ESC Responses to DEC Comments made in May 8, 2006 Correspondence on the March 10 Proposed Supplemental Geophysical Survey correspondence.

ESC Responses to DEC Comments made in May 8, 2006 Correspondence on the March 20 Proposed Supplemental Geophysical Survey correspondence.

ESC cover letter to DEC for the Aquifer Testing Summary and Design Modification Status report.

ESC response to DEC May 8 correspondence on December 2005 Onsite Assessment Report. ESC provides only the 1981 industry chemical use inventory report for Borg Warner as a listing of chemicals ever used in the facility before EPT took ownership. Various "Areas of Concern" are discussed. One area that DEC mentions is the area where the "oily soil remediation" was performed, and DEC states "contaminated soils remained onsite above standards. These areas should be reinvestigated." EPT/ESC simply refuse to investigate this problem area further, citing the determination (in 1995) that the site was identified as "closed - does not meet standards" at the time. Similarly, EPT/ESC contend that they have done all that they can do to remediate the oil-contaminated areas below a degreasing unit and conveyor system and that the site met cleanup criteria (below 1,000 parts per million) set in 1994. ESC/EPT decline to provide requested details of interviews with employees of the prior owner, citing past litigation between EPT and the prior owners (attorney/client privilege) and records destroyed in a fire. DEC also notes that the levels of VOCs found in both indoor air and subslab testing onsite require those locations to be considered as Areas of Concern.

Notice to homeowners of the need to work on their property as part of the Supplemental Geophysical Survey.

"A brief summary" prepared by EPT describing:
- the completion of Phase IV Indoor Air Testing; two additional homes offered mitigation systems
- Turner Place Sewer Investigation - borings taken along sanitary sewer lines
- Supplemental Geophysical Survey to begin the week of July 24, 2006
Modifications being made to remediation system: more wells and new treatment equipment.

Report from ESC on the Turner Place sewer investigation. While PCE and TCE were detected in 18 of 25 soil samples taken, the levels are below the cleanup standards set by DEC.  The highest readings were found in sample locations between two of the homes with the highest subslab TCE levels: 207 South Hill Terrace and 316 Turner Place.

Resolution unanimously passed by Ithaca's Common Council calling for an expanded testing area and for "blanket" offers of mitigation for ALL homes in the affected neighborhoods, regardless of individual test results.

Comprehensive listing of results from Phase IV, with lists of which properties were tested in which rounds, numbers of homes which are "No Further Action", "Further Monitoring", and eligible for mitigation.  Details are provided for test results for all Phase IV tests, as are questionnaires and household inventory forms.

Report from "WSP Environmental Strategies LLC" (the new name for Environmental Strategies Consulting LLC) detailing the extraction well tests conducted January to June 2006, during which period the average system uptime was 80%.  The system removed 170,558 gallons of groundwater, including a half-pound of VOCs from the aqueous phase and approximately 31 pounds of VOCs from the vapor phase.  This brings the estimated total of VOCs removed by the system to approximately 350 pounds since the start of system operation. TCE levels ranged from 38 to 32,000 ug/L, cis-1,2-DCE from 15 to 8,100 ug/L, trans-1,2-DCE 89 to 92 ug/L, vinyl chloride 4.6 to 1,200 ug/L and methylene chloride 48 to 640 ug/L.  The report states "Since September 2004, when ESC Engineering began managing the 2-PHASE ™ extraction system, the concentrations of VOCs in these wells have exhibited no consistent trend."

Results of "Packer testing and sampling" performed onsite August 14 - 23, 2006.  The tests hoped to explore the nature of open horizontal bedding plane fractures present in extraction wells EW-1 and EW-3 at approximately 52 feet below the top of each well.  "The packer testing results indicate that the bedding fracture identified at 52 feet is a transport pathway for groundwater below the current remediation.  The results suggest that the horizontal bedding plane fracture has been intersected by a vertical conduit (joint set), which allows affected groundwater to migrate downward to the bedding fracture plane... the upper C-zone and B-zone wells are not in direct hydraulic connection with the deeper extraction wells."

Letter and Map from WSP describing the properties they intend to test as part of Phase V.  (The letter refers to "Table 1" which is not part of this copy.) They will test 18 properties that were sampled once during Phase IV.  Two properties have been offered mitigation but have not accepted the offer and will be tested again.  One home (Property 97b) will be sampled for the first time, as will the Ithaca City Court building and the Ithaca Police Department headquarters.  [Subsequent discussions supposedly added the Police garages to the list - they are located across from the IPD main building, below the "creek side" row of homes along the 100-block of East Spencer St.]

Reservoir Work Plan submitted by WSP. "The additional subsurface information gained from this investigation is necessary to complete the design upgrades to the remediation system at the site.  The proposed scope of work involves installing and sampling six open boreholes in areas hydraulically upgradient, cross-gradient, and downgradient of the fire reservoir and three shallow B-zone wells immediately surrounding the reservoir."

Supplemental Geophysical Survey - A 225-page report prepared by WSP, with all manner of theory and discussions of the additional Electrical Resistivity tests, with results displayed with various colorful graphs.  Fields notes and tables of points along the various lines are included, as are notes of anomalies found.  Unfortunately, there is no discussion about what all this might mean in terms of changes to be made in testing or remediation efforts.




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