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EPA Proposes Changes to Cleanup Plan at Cattaraugus County, NY Toxic Site Public Meeting to take place August 5 in Olean

Release Date: 07/23/2014
Contact Information: Michael Basile, (646) 369-0055, or Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664,

(New York, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a change to the plan to clean up soil and groundwater at the former Alcas Cutlery Corporation facility at the Olean Well Field Superfund site in Olean, New York. Soil and groundwater at the Alcas facility are contaminated with volatile organic compounds, which are often found in paint, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleaners, disinfectants, automotive products and dry cleaning fluids. Some volatile organic compounds can cause cancer. The extent and nature of potential health effects depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure to the pollution.

The proposed plan changes a prior long-term cleanup plan and is intended to speed up the cleanup of the groundwater at the Olean Well Field site. The plan calls for the soil and groundwater to be treated to break down the contaminants.
The EPA will hold a public meeting on August 5 to explain the proposed plan and is accepting public comments. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Jamestown Community College, Cattaraugus County Campus, Cutco Theater, 260 North Union Street, Olean, New York. Comments will be accepted until August 22.

“The EPA plan addresses contaminated soil and groundwater pollution in a way that will protect public health and the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “The EPA encourages the public to attend the Olean Well Field August meeting and share their views on this proposed plan.”

The Olean Well Field site is a 1.5 square-mile area located in Cattaraugus County that contains 53 wells, homes, and facilities with manufacturing operations. The Allegheny River and two of its tributaries, the Olean and Haskell Creeks, flow through the site. Previous industrial operations contaminated the soil and groundwater with volatile organic compounds. The site was added to the Superfund list in 1983. The former Alcas Cutlery facility currently houses an active cutlery manufacturing business and is one of the manufacturing operations which is impacting the site.

Olean city officials discovered volatile organic compounds at the site in 1981 and later installed treatment units for drinking water on private wells. Public wells were cleaned and reopened. Contaminated soil was removed from certain properties within the site. The city water lines were extended from the Town of Olean to connect to approximately 93 homes which were previously served by private wells. Five thousand feet of sewer lines were replaced or cleaned. Water mains were also extended to provide safe fire hydrants for the community. The McGraw-Edison industrial sewer was inspected, and necessary repairs and replacements were made. Drinking water is treated to reduce the contamination to a level that protects human health.

An EPA study identified four properties as sources of the contamination. These properties are AVX, Alcas, Cooper Industries, Inc. (formerly McGraw Edison), and the former Loohn’s Dry Cleaners and Launderers property.

At AVX, approximately 5,055 tons of contaminated soils were removed. A further study to address soil and water contamination is ongoing. A groundwater treatment system was installed at the Cooper Industries facility. At the Loohn’s Dry Cleaners, over 10,000 tons of contaminated soil were removed from the site and the dry cleaning building was demolished. The groundwater is monitored to assess the need for further response, if necessary.

The proposal announced this week addresses the Alcas portion of the Olean site. Additional studies performed at the Alcas area have revealed that there is contamination beneath the main manufacturing building, which was not known at the time EPA made its original clean up decision. Due to this additional contamination, the cleanup plan that the EPA originally selected was not sufficiently protective of human health and the environment and that another cleanup option would need to be implemented.

The new EPA proposed plan calls for combination of cleanup measures. The groundwater at a portion of the source area will be treated by injecting chemicals into the ground to transform the contaminants into less harmful chemical compounds such as water and carbon dioxide, a process known as chemical oxidation. The additives are pumped into the groundwater at different depths targeting polluted areas.

Along the southern portion of former Alcas Cutlery Corporation facility, the EPA proposes applying non-hazardous additives such as lactate or vegetable oil to the groundwater to promote the breakdown of contaminants. The specific types of additives to be used will be determined by the EPA as part of the design of the cleanup. Each of the injections is followed by monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment. Samples of the groundwater will be collected and analyzed to ensure that the technology is effective. The groundwater will be monitored for several years after the cleanup goals have been met to demonstrate that the soil and groundwater is no longer a source of contamination.

Under the new cleanup plan, contaminated soil from beneath the main building at the former Alcas facility will be excavated if treatment alone does not achieve the groundwater cleanup goals. The excavation work would be done in coordination with the existing business located at the site to minimize impacts to ongoing manufacturing operations.

The proposed plan requires restrictions on how the site can be used in the future to ensure that activities at the site do not interfere with the cleanup. Groundwater use at the site has been restricted until it meets water quality standards.

The EPA will conduct a review within five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. The EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites that are placed on the Superfund list and it seeks to hold those parties accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. The parties responsible for the former Alcas Cutlery Corporation facility are performing the cleanup activities under an agreement with EPA.

Written comments may be mailed or emailed to:
Michael Walters, Remedial Project Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2
290 Broadway, 20th floor
New York, NY 10007-1866

The proposed plan and more information about the site are available at:

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