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EPA Finishes $4.8 Million Cleanup at Ithaca Gun

Release Date: 10/29/2004
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(#04168) New York, N.Y. -- Lead-tainted soil at the former Ithaca Gun Company is now cleaned up to acceptable levels, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Agency officials marked the end of the cleanup with a site tour today. Over the past two years, EPA vacuumed up soil contaminated with lead from spent shot that was scattered throughout the area.

"In the spring, after some minor restoration work is completed, EPA will return the once contaminated Fall Creek Gorge area to its former scenic grandeur," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "The terrain in this area made what would have been a relatively straight-forward cleanup much more difficult, but we got the job done."

The site covers a gorge, an island and a millrace that was historically used to divert water from above Ithaca Falls to local industries, including the gun factory. EPA removed more than 6,000 tons of soil and materials contaminated with lead from the site. Much of it was sent off-site for treatment or disposal. EPA had to use vacuums to remove soil; it was not possible to use conventional heavy equipment. The soil on many areas of the island and gorge, and most of the millrace were removed to bedrock and then backfilled with clean topsoil. The cleanup has cost about $4.8 million dollars.

To ensure that the cleanup was going as planned and that people's health was being protected, EPA sampled the soil extensively throughout the entire cleanup process. The Agency also monitored to make sure that the lead was not getting into the air and took steps to minimize dust from the project. Lead levels in the soil when EPA started work ranged up to 215,000 ppm. Now, the levels average 110 ppm, far below the national cleanup standard of 400 ppm.

The Ithaca Gun Company manufactured firearms and munitions between 1880 and 1986. The company disposed of spent lead shot from the testing of firearms on a steep-sloped property adjacent to the gun factory. The site is immediately adjacent to a popular fishing area in Fall Creek and immediately downstream from a popular swimming and fishing area in the Fall Creek Gorge.

EPA collaborated on the cleanup with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.