October 02, 2007


State seeks public comment on polluted C’ville dump site


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Fifteen 50-gallon drums are stored behind a barbed wire fence enclosure on SouthHill Road off Route 11, south of Blodgett Mills.

Staff Reporter

The state has formulated the initial cleanup stages of the old South Hill dump site in Cortlandville and will be accepting public comment at a meeting Thursday and in writing.
The state’s preferred remedy would cost slightly more than $2 million and would prevent contaminants from migrating off-site and posing a threat to groundwater, surface water and the area’s sole source aquifer.
If both the town and potentially responsible industries do not agree to pay for the cleanup, the site would be handled through the state Superfund program.
State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesperson Lori O’Connell said “the site is a fairly low risk because of its isolated location and also the age of the waste.”
The solution would involve covering the former town municipal dump site on South Hill Road, used from the early 1960s until 1972, with 2 feet of topsoil, placing restrictions on the land’s use and monitoring the degree of the contamination in years to come.
The site remediation would likely occur within the next two years.
The entire site is about 6 acres, while the landfill itself covers about 2.5 acres. In 1990, the DEC conducted a site inspection and collected soil and leachate samples that found solvents and pesticides in the landfill.
However, testing indicates that the contamination is mostly restricted to the landfill area itself and has not extended beyond the edge of the entire site.
Access to the site was unrestricted during the dump’s operation according to the DEC’s Proposed Remedial Action Plan, on file at the Cortland Free Library. Waste was received from the municipalities of McGraw, Cortlandville and Solon, and from local industries and residents.
The DEC has identified the town of Cortlandville, Smith Corona Marchant and the Overhead Door Corp. as potentially responsible parties in connection with the dump’s cleanup.
Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said the town would probably not be willing to help pay for the cleanup and that industry should instead be held responsible.
“We have not reserved $2 million,” Tupper said after a Town Board meeting last week.
Representatives of Ohio-based Smith Corona were unable to be reached, and a phone call to the Texas-based Overhead Door Corp. was not returned.
The Texas-based Overhead Door Corp. is a manufacturer, while the Cortland Overhead Door Co. is an independently owned sales office, not connected with the manufacturer outside of the sales relationship.
The last local Overhead Door Corp. manufacturing plant closed in the mid-1980s and is now part of Pall Corp.’s Route 281 operations.
The potentially responsible parties had declined to participate in the remedial investigation and feasibility study to clean up the site as requested by the DEC, according to the state.
After a final remedial plan is selected following the public comment period, the potentially responsible parties would again be contacted to assume responsibility for the remedial program.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the DEC will evaluate the site for further action under the state _Superfund program, and the potentially responsible parties might be subject to legal action for the recovery of the costs the state has incurred.
Steeply sloped woodlands surround the South Hill site and the nearest residence is a quarter-mile away, with much of the surrounding properties utilized as farmland or forest.
In 1991, the site was listed as a Class 2 Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site — a Class 2 is a site where hazardous waste presents a significant threat to public health or the environment and action is required.
Later that year, five drums of trichloroethene, or TCE, were removed from the site. The same chemical has infiltrated the groundwater to the north of the former Smith Corona factory on Route 13 in South Cortland, and the DEC operates wells that draw the TCE from the ground.
Testing in the early 1990s showed the presence of TCE, as well as other chemicals and metals in surface water, sediment and soil samples taken from the site.
During the excavation of one test pit in the dumpsite near where the five TCE drums were removed, the pit had to be abandoned after contaminants were observed flowing into the hole. In March 1997, 660 gallons of liquid were pumped out of that area of the site; the liquid contained TCE among other chemicals.
Investigations indicate the landfill is contaminating the groundwater and intermittent stream at the bottom of the fill area. However, the Proposed Remedial Action Plan states that ecologically significant migration of chemicals into that stream is unlikely.
Concentrations of chemicals in groundwater, surface water and sediment samples that were collected near the edge of the site were at or below testable thresholds.
The site contamination has the potential to impact the Cortland-Homer-Preble aquifer system without a remediation plan. The landfill lies on the eastern edge of the aquifer.
The state identified seven possible courses of action for mitigating the site contamination and settled upon the third least expensive option. In addition to covering the landfill with 2 feet of topsoil to prevent wildlife or human contact with waste currently exposed at the surface, the site would be re-graded; vegetation would be established; and a drainage ditch would be re-routed to a different area.
According to the Proposed Remedial Action Plan, these actions would reduce the infiltration of precipitation through the buried waste and would also reduce any contamination migration. Institutional and engineering controls, land use restrictions, and long-term monitoring of groundwater, surface water and sediment would be performed to ensure the effectiveness of the remedy at reducing infiltration.
Further investigation would take three months, design would take another three months, and the construction of the soil cover could be completed in a single construction season, the plan goes on to say.
The public meeting to take comment regarding the proposed remediation will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the state DEC office on Fisher Avenue.
Written comments will be received by the DEC until Oct. 17, and can be addressed to: James Drumm, NYSDEC, Division of Environmental Remediation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7016.



Fountains still off at Appleby Elementary

Water contamination issues have persisted since November.

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — Students, teachers and staff in Appleby Elementary School continue to drink water out of portable water coolers, unsure whether or not the school’s tap water is safe to drink.
The coolers have been used since November, when the problem with the water was discovered in some parts of the elementary school.
The Superintendent of Schools Tim Turecek said Friday that a series of tests conducted in August indicated that more sites in the school have elevated lead levels.
Turecek said throughout last year between one and three sites had elevated lead levels at a given time, but in August nine sites had elevated lead levels.
Those sites can be found at, as well as the lead level measure at each site.
Turecek said the results of the August tests were highly disappointing, though they may result from water not running regularly over the summer. Since the start of the school year, the district has flushed water in the school on a daily basis.
The district, which has already replaced about 12 fixtures with lead-free ones in Appleby Elementary, plans on having water at the school tested again this week, Turecek said. If lead levels are down then, the district might be able to turn the schools’ drinking fountains back on for drinking, he said.
Whether or not more tests will be required will be decided by the board of education, he said.
If lead levels stay stable or go up, the district will have to decide how to proceed, he said. Research the district has conducted seems to indicate replacing every pipe in the building would not necessarily bring lead levels down, he said.
Alternatively, a chemical could be added to the water to line the pipes, preventing lead from leaching out, he said, but that could create another problem.
“We have some concern about what our consequences are, of another additive,” he said. “Are you resolving one problem and creating another?”
Water fountains in the Appleby Elementary School have been off since Nov. 17, the same day the district notified parents about elevated lead levels in Appleby Elementary School’s water supply.
Since September 2002, elevated levels of lead were found in testing Appleby Elementary’s water supply, with the highest reading at 0.228 milligrams per liter in September 2003.


Renovations to C’ville Town Hall improve service, work conditions

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — In the space of one year, the town’s Raymond G. Thorpe Municipal Building has doubled in size and working conditions have also improved.
The $1.6 million project to expand the town hall and town court facilities from 5,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet began in September 2006 and was substantially complete last month.
The project was funded with $500,000 that the town had in its reserves, and the remainder was paid for via a bond anticipation note, a short-term bond that the town can pay off within the next five years.
A central corridor runs between the addition and the original building, with windows opening into the town clerk’s office and an antique wooden water line is currently on display.
The addition of a 5,000-square-foot court facility, which will also accommodate meetings of the Town Board and other boards, was completed in February and the town departments have been moving around the construction workers ever since, and vice versa.
Supervisor Dick Tupper said that although keeping the employees working in the building through construction might have tacked on a few months to the project, it did not disrupt employees’ routines to any great extent.
Only the outside walls of the original building, the roof rafters and the concrete floor were retained in the essentially brand new structure, which Tupper said has a one-year warranty.
The Town Hall at 3577 Terrace Road was built in 1962 and received an addition in 1986. Tupper said the building was still under construction when he became supervisor in September 2005, with much of the ceiling unfinished, temporary construction lighting providing illumination and asbestos tiles underfoot.
He expects the new building to meet the town’s needs for at least the next 30 years.
The building is very energy efficient, utilizing geothermal cooling — via the 42-degree water from the nearby municipal well — automatic switching between heating and air conditioning. It also is equipped with low-energy light fixtures.
“The people that installed it told me that we should have roughly the same utility bills for twice as much space,” Tupper said as he sat in his new office Monday afternoon.



Dryden town and village consider sewer projects

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The fate of the Cortland Road Sewer District has become clouded with talks of an expanded district encompassing areas besides the northeastern section of town.
The village of Dryden provides sewer service for this area that includes Tompkins Cortland Community College and Dryden Middle School-High School.
The town currently pays 1.25 times the sewer rate charged in the village and the village is seeking additional funds to enlarge the capacity of the sewer treatment plant. The village intends to build a new plant to service the village and Cortland Road area, replacing the more than 40-year-old plant.
The problem is finding out just how much water is used in the Cortland Road Sewer District to determine the cost of the new plant. Representatives from the village, town and TC3 have been working to find a solution.
Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull said Sept. 13 during a Town Board meeting that flow meters and manholes have been installed and readings taken for a month. He said the town would like to monitor any infiltration into the sewer system for two to three months and may undertake an expansion study to determine the feasibility of the town taking on a sewer project that could encompass Freeville, the Yellow Barn Road area and Lake Road, in addition to the area currently served in the Cortland Road Sewer District.
Code Enforcement Officer Henry Slater said readings have been recorded since Aug. 22 but he just got the report the morning of Sept. 13. At the time he thought the readings indicated a lot of infiltration, but Wednesday he said the computer-generated results were wrong. Slater said one manhole records sewer readings for the college and another one records for the dorms on TC3 Foundation property.
During a Thursday Village Trustee meeting Mayor Reba Taylor said the flow monitors are actually showing lower measurements than before from TC3. She said that was good news because some people had thought the new plant was not being designed with a large enough capacity. The plant proposed was designed to process 600,000 gallons of wastewater a day; the current plant is believed to be operating at its maximum of 500,000 gallons a day.




City DPW works to finish for the season

Staff Reporter

Coming into the last stretch before winter, the city Department of Public Works will be jumping from one project to the next. Storm sewer upgrades on Kennedy Parkway and at the corner of Homer Avenue and North and West Main streets should be completed by Nov. 1, followed immediately by the $2 million project to shore up the city’s sewer system.
The city is also waiting on a concrete manufacturer to finish casting the North Main Street culvert.
The project was scheduled to have been finished Monday, said DPW Superintendent Chris Bistocchi, but Husted Concrete Products of New York Mills, near Utica, a subcontractor hired by primary contractor Suit-Kote Corp., is still working on projects related to the heavy flooding in the Binghamton area last year.
“Suit-Kote has done a good job to get everything set up and ready to go,” Bistocchi said Monday afternoon. “We’re just waiting for the structure to get poured, cured, and delivered.”
He hopes that project will be completed by the end of the month — the 8-foot wide sections of pre-cast concrete should not take long to assemble into the roughly 65-foot-long by 20-foot-wide culvert.
Kennedy Parkway improvements were begun Sept. 12, and will result in the installation of a new gravity fed storm sewer system, including catch basins, that should be able to handle the water coming off Route 13 (Clinton Avenue) during heavy rainfalls. It should be completed by mid-October.
“There have been minor inconveniences with traffic, but when it’s all done, hopefully we’ll have solved the flooding problem on Kennedy Parkway,” Bistocchi said. Then, the DPW will install new storm sewers at the corner in front of the Cortland Regional Medical Center on Homer Avenue, which should be done by Nov. 1.
The roughly $300,000 cost of the Kennedy Parkway and Homer Avenue improvements is folded into the total $2 million cost of sewer system upgrades.
The Common Council issued $3.9 million in serial bonds for the work in September 2006, with some of that money going toward upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant.
Monday marked the beginning of the preliminary work for the sliplining project — sliplining involves inserting a plastic-type material into the deteriorating sewer lines. The material then hardens