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June 24, 2008

 

Buckbee cleanup cost may reach $6 million

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hopeful work will be completed by this fall

Buckbee

Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
Workers from WRS/Compass tear down a portion of the former Buckbee-Mears plant on Kellogg Road Monday morning. On the right is sorted scrap metal pulled from the facility.  

By EVAN GEIBEL
Staff Reporter
egeibel@cortlandstandard.net

The cost of cleaning the contaminated former Buckbee-Mears factory on Kellogg Road could reach $6 million and work may be finished by the fall, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman said Monday.
While the building permit for demolition work on the site noted that the buildings to be torn down totaled nearly 200,000 square feet, the EPA is demolishing only 75,000 square feet.
There is a chance the agency could be finished with its cleanup by late fall.
Mike Basile, the community involvement coordinator at the EPA’s Western New York Public Information Office in Buffalo, said portions of the one-story buildings being demolished are structurally unstable and amount to about 20 percent of the 330,000 square feet of facilities on the site. Basile estimated it could take about two and a half months to complete the demolition, and the EPA would continue to clean up the site after that point.
“Our work continues there. You’ll probably see us on site probably through the end of September this year,” Basile said Monday. “We’re looking at the feasibility of formulating a sampling and analysis plan to see if any of the soils around the building are contaminated.”
Basile said that the state Department of Environmental Conservation could also take an active role at the site after the EPA has finished.
The chemicals, used in the etching process in making aperture masks for televisions, include ferric chloride, anhydrous ammonia, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid.
The materials removed from the site are being taken out of state, and Basile said the majority of the debris would go into a hazardous waste landfill.
To date, the EPA has spent about $4 million on the cleanup, with the demolition costing about $500,000. Originally, $3 million had been set aside for the site. Basile stressed that budgeting for these kinds of clean up operations is rarely exact, but said the final cost of the operation could come in between $5 million and $6 million.
“We do this at every site we’re involved in, because many times you don’t really know what you’re going to find until you start doing the work,” he said.
The factory owner, India-based International Electron Devices, left hazardous chemicals in the building unsecured. Damage from leaking chemicals occurred during the winter of 2006-07 when the building was not heated. International Electron Devices shut down operations in 2005 after only operating for a few months.
The company had reopened the closed Buckbee-Mears factory that produced television aperture masks, which are screens through which beams of light are projected to create an image.
The EPA has tried unsuccessfully to reclaim the cost of the cleanup from the Indian company.
“Even if we completed work at this site later this year, we still have a responsibility — that arm of our operation will continue,” Basile said of the efforts of criminal investigators and lawyers to reclaim the cleanup costs. “We don’t put the cleanup on hold.”
About two weeks ago, representatives of the State Bank of India — which had provided the mortgage for IED’s purchase of the facility — met with Mayor Tom Gallagher, EPA and DEC officials, and developers to discuss a plan for what to do with the site after the cleanup has been completed.
“It was nothing but a conversation of a plan — of what can we do,” Gallagher said this morning. “They were trying to figure out, when they get it cleaned up, what was the best way to market it.”
IED_owes the city nearly $1 million in taxes. Gallagher said that the parties considered auctioning off some of the equipment still in the building before trying to sell the property itself.
Gallagher also pointed out that legislation that the city had recently enacted would allow the city to seize the property due to the back taxes, and then could auction it off.
The attorney representing the State Bank of India, George Bruckman of the New York City-based Goetz Fitzpatrick law firm, said the bank is still forming a management policy relating to the site and is only in the fact-finding stage.
“We don’t own the property — the bank has a security interest in the property, but it is not the owner,” Bruckman stressed this morning, adding that the bank has no responsibility for the site, other than securing its collateral for the mortgage.
The property is approximately 50 acres and contains three production buildings, an office building, a water treatment building, a large warehouse, and two smaller storage buildings, including one for various hazardous waste products.
Basile said the demolition work was being performed on parts of two buildings, which were mainly used for manufacturing. Most of the damage was in the original building built in 1974 on the site, which contains roughly 80,000 square feet.

 

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