Contact Us


All News Releases By Date


EPA Proposes Plan to Clean Up Century Old Tannery Site

Release Date: 08/21/2006
Contact Information: Ben Barry, (212) 637-3651 or

(New York, NY) – The site of a tannery operation that began operating in Herkimer County, New York almost a century ago will be cleaned up under a plan proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the plan, EPA will treat contaminated soil and sediment at the Hiteman Leather Company Superfund site, the Undilla River and a nearby wetland by digging up the affected soil and sediment, removing any water, and then treating it with chemicals that bind the contaminants together so they cannot spread to other areas of the site. EPA also plans to pump out ground water from under the site and treat it to remove chromium and other metals.

“This site has a long history of industrial activity that, unfortunately, began contaminating surrounding soil, sediment, and ground water almost a hundred years ago,” said Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. “We have completed an extensive analysis of the site, and now we’re ready to start the work that will remove potential threats to people’s health, and turn this site around so that it can be used to benefit the local community.”

EPA will hold a public information session for interested individuals on August 29, 2006 at 7:00 pm at the West Winfield Free Library in Bisby Hall located at 179 South Street in West Winfield.

The Hiteman family acquired the tannery in 1910 and the facility originally discharged waste from the tannery buildings directly to the Unadilla River. The family expanded the tannery and increased production, incorporating a tanning process that used chromium. The chromium-based process, in combination with new machinery, reduced the time to manufacture leather from years to months to weeks; it, however, increased the waste the facility generated and made it much more toxic. The company constructed two unlined wastewater lagoons in 1931 and a third unlined lagoon in 1959. The lagoons have leaked into the Unadilla River and a nearby wetland area.

The Hiteman Leather Company closed in 1968, when it could no longer afford to treat contaminated wastewater from the tannery. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) conducted an investigation at the site in the late 1980’s and early 1990”s and then asked EPA to take over the cleanup. In 1994, EPA performed preliminary sampling at the former tannery property and, in 1999, added it to the National Priorities List of the country’s most contaminated sites.

EPA conducted an additional field investigation at the Hiteman Leather site in 2001-2002 to acquire data for the next full scale investigation of the site. The Agency installed wells to monitor ground water and collected samples of soil, wetland sediment, surface water and sediment from the Unadilla River, as well as water from residential and public supply water wells.

In 2003, EPA awarded a $100,000 federal grant to the Village of West Winfield to develop a Reuse Assessment and Redevelopment Plan for the Hiteman Leather site as part of the EPA's Superfund Redevelopment Initiative. The Village's Reuse Assessment and Redevelopment Plan, includes construction of a community center, development of recreational facilities, consolidating and modernizing the existing Department of Public Works facility, and additional commercial development.

Interested individuals can send comments on the proposed plan from August 22, 2006 to September 21, 2006 to:

Jack O’Dell
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway, 20th Floor
New York, New York 10007-1866
fax: (212) 637-3966

For more information on the Hiteman Leather Company site: