September 5, 2012
Crews scrub Homer pollutants
NYSEG cleaning up Route 11 site of former gas plant
HOMER — The latest phase of a cleanup at the former Cortland-Homer Manufactured Gas Plant began July 23 and is expected to continue into January, according to New York State Electric and Gas.
Clayton Ellis, corporate communications manager of NYSEG, said traffic has been disrupted on Route 11 from the railroad underpass northward to the plant, but that traffic flow is being maintained.
The project, which was planned by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2005, is cleaning the site of contaminants left behind by the plant. An early estimate of the cost of the project was $12.4 million, but a current figure was not available this morning.
The site is listed as a “Class 2” site, which means it represents a significant threat to public health or to the environment. The classification states that “action is required,” according to a fact sheet provided by the DEC.
An alternative sidewalk was constructed to allow pedestrians to navigate around the site during the current work.
The site is approximately 2 acres in area and from 1858 to 1935, Homer & Cortland Gas Light Co. used it to produce manufactured gas for lighting and for heating homes and businesses.
The process resulted in such by-products as tar, coal and ash. Pollutants spread into the soil and groundwater at this site, and into the West Branch of the Tioughnioga River. The project is removing contaminated soil.
This past July, the specifics of the project were approved by the DEC. All former structures and debris will be removed, as will 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.
The soil that is under the stretch of Route 11 will be removed as part of the effort. The southern side of a manufacturing building on the site was demolished as part of the project.
To ensure that local residents are not exposed to dust and vapors from the excavation, an air-monitoring system has been put in place. It adheres to state Department of Health guidelines, which state the project must minimize the potential odors from escaping.
When the cleanup is completed, NYSEG will release an engineering report that certifies the site has been remedied.
A Construction Completion Report will also be released, which will describe the cleanup activities and also to certify that all requirements of the cleanup have been met.
The DEC says it will give updates to the public throughout the cleanup process.
NYSEG is responsible for the cost of the cleanup of the Homer site and a site on Charles Street in Cortland as part of a legal agreement with the DEC that requires it to clean up several sites across the state.
The site cleanup is being overseen by the state’s Superfund Program. In 2010, a similar cleanup began at 43-45 Charles St. in Cortland, which included knocking down two houses. The site once contained a 22,000-cubic-foot gas storage tank.
The following year, NYSEG contractors brought in equipment to begin digging up the top 2 feet of soil, a sidewalk, curb, four trees and a small piece of street pavement. The trees were replaced and grass was planted. A new sidewalk was also constructed.
That project, which concluded in 2011, cost about $175,000. NYSEG said in 2010 that it has no plans to build on the property following the cleanup, but that it is not opposed to leasing it.
At the request of a neighbor, NYSEG donated just over $18,000 to create a community garden, which includes 17 trees, on the 260-by 60-foot parcel directly across from St. Mary’s School. There are native species of plants, bushes and trees, bird feeders and rocks and mulch.
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