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Cleanup of Contaminated Sediments at Superfund Site in Moira Proceeds as U.S. Announces Proposed Agreement with Responsible Parties

Release Date: 09/19/2000
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(#00165) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The federal government has reached a proposed settlement with the parties deemed responsible for the contamination at theYork Oil federal Superfund site in Moira, Franklin County, New York. One of the consenting parties, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), is conducting the cleanup of sediments contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead from the Superfund site. Other consenting parties include four federal agencies and twenty-one companies andor municipalities , which are providing funds to Alcoa to conduct the cleanup, as well as reimbursing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for past cleanup, future and oversight costs. The site is a former, improperly managed waste oil washing and storage facility.

Alcoa designed the cleanup of the contaminated sediments under the terms of a Superfund Unilateral Order to expedite the work, while the parties continued to work toward the Consent Decree being announced today. The Consent Decree was lodged earlier this month in federal district court in Albany by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA. The proposed agreement is subject to public comment and will be finalized in a few months, after review and consideration of comments.

"We are pleased with the spirit of cooperation that prevailed in the negotiations," EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox noted. "The work will provide permanent protection from the hazards once posed by the Superfund site, and the settlement will spare taxpayers almost all of the costs associated with the project," Ms. Fox said.

The current cleanup involves excavation of the contaminated wetland sediments, followed by on-site treatment and disposal of the contaminated material. The cost of the cleanup, which should be finished next fall, is estimated to be $3.6 million.

This proposed agreement is the latest in a series of Superfund enforcement actions at the York Oil site that resulted in the performance of investigations, cleanup work and investigations, as well as cost recovery settlements. Under a 1996 Superfund Consent Decree, Alcoa carried out the bulk of an estimated $18 million cleanup of soil and installed a groundwater extraction and treatment system at the site with financing from numerous private parties and the U.S. Department of the Army, the U.S. Department of the Air Force, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Postal Service. The remaining work is scheduled for completion next summer. In addition, Alcoa and other private parties reimbursed EPA $4 million for costs incurred in the 1980s and early 1990s for short-term cleanup actions EPA took to remove immediate threats to public health and the environment posed by the site. Through a subsequent 1997 Consent Decree, twenty-four parties, which included two municipalities and a municipal agency, paid a total of $2.2 million to settle their liability for EPA's past cleanup costs.

Under a 1992 Superfund Administrative Order on Consent, many of the responsible parties, with EPA oversight, investigated the final phase of the overall site cleanup, the migration of contamination associated with the York Oil Superfund site. Based on the results of that investigation, in 1998, EPA selected the removal of contaminated sediments in the wetlands adjacent to the York Oil facility as the appropriate cleanup action. For the downgradient groundwater contamination, EPA also decided to rely on the gradual breakdown of the contaminants in the groundwater through degradation and dilution, a process called "natural attenuation," to return the groundwater quality to federal and state standards. The other part of EPA’s plan for groundwater contamination includes local institutional controls, specifically a prohibition on the installation of drinking water wells.