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EPA to Resume Cleanup Work at Ithaca Gun Company Site This Week

Release Date: 05/19/2003
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(#03057) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resumed the cleanup, begun last July, at the Ithaca Gun Company site in Ithaca, New York. The Agency will continue to vacuum soil contaminated with lead from spent lead shot dumped by the owners of the former Ithaca Gun Company. The work was stopped in December 2002 for the winter.

"We are pleased to be starting up again after a winter hiatus, and hope to have all the contamination removed before next winter," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "As we resume, we continue to take all the necessary precautions to ensure the continued safety of the workers and area residents."

To date, EPA has removed 83 vacuum boxes totaling 1,221 tons of lead-contaminated soil from the project. The Agency estimates that another 3,200 tons of waste will be removed this year to complete cleanup efforts at the site. The vacuum removal process, used because the terrain is so steep, precludes conventional excavation; it takes longer than conventional excavating. The cleanup will cost about $4 million. During the cleanup, EPA removes contaminated soil and takes samples of remaining soil to confirm cleanup goals. The excavated areas are then backfilled with clean top soil. Lead levels in the soil when EPA first discovered the site ranged from 251 parts per million (ppm) to 215,000 ppm. After excavating, levels are averaging 110 ppm, far below the cleanup standard of 400 ppm. Air samples taken during the cleanup operations last year came back negative for lead and arsenic and no increases in airborne particulates were observed. Continual wetting of the soil during all cleanup activities suppresses potentially contaminated dust, and air sampling will be conducted again this season to ensure safety of site workers and area residents.

The Ithaca Gun Company was in operation from 1880 to 1986 as a manufacturer of firearms and munitions. Spent lead shot from the testing of firearms was disposed of onto steep-sloped property adjacent to the gun factory. This adjacent property includes a millrace, which historically was used to divert water from above Ithaca Falls for use by local industries, including the gun factory. State Street Associates L.P. II owns the former gun company located at 121-125 Lake Street. The City of Ithaca owns the property down gradient of the gun factory in the millrace and gorge areas. The site is immediately adjacent to a popular fishing area in Fall Creek and immediately downstream of a popular swimming and fishing area in the Fall Creek Gorge. Because of the possibility of finding historical artifacts left over from the gun works, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) completed a review of the site in October, and concluded that cleanup activities will have, "no effect upon cultural resources and is not eligible for inclusion in the National Registry of Historic Places." In the event that artifacts are discovered, EPA will abide by NYSOPRHP's recommendations and will proceed with as much sensitivity toward historic items as possible.

All site-related documents are available for public review at the reference desks at the Tompkins County Public Library and the Olin Library at Cornell University. The site's Web site, Exit EPA disclaimer, will continue to be updated frequently with progress reports, photographs and air monitoring results.