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EPA Finalizes Cleanup Plan for Lower Ley Creek Portion of Onondaga Lake Superfund Site; $17 to $25 Million to be Spent to Address PCBs

Release Date: 10/03/2014
Contact Information: Larisa Romanowski, (518) 747-4389, or Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664,

      (New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plan to clean up contaminated soil and sediment at the Lower Ley Creek area of the Onondaga Lake Superfund Site located in the City of Syracuse and Town of Salina, Onondaga County, New York. Discharges from nearby industries and a landfill have contaminated the soil and sediment with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other hazardous substances. PCBs are probable human carcinogens that build up in the fat of fish and mammals, increasing in concentration as they move up the food chain. The primary risk to people is the accumulation of PCBs in the body from eating contaminated fish. It’s anticipated that the design and implementation of the estimated $17 to $25 million cleanup will be performed by those responsible for contamination in the creek.

      The EPA held a public meeting in Salina on July 29, 2014 after proposing the cleanup plan. The EPA accepted public comments for 60 days. After reviewing and considering all of the comments that were received and after consultation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the EPA finalized the cleanup plan.

      The Onondaga Lake Superfund site, which includes the lake itself, six tributaries and various upland sources of contamination, was placed on the EPA’s Superfund list in 1994. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the EPA have organized the cleanup work for the Onondaga Lake Superfund Site into 11 areas. These areas are in various stages of cleanup.

      The Lower Ley Creek area is located in an industrialized area on the City of Syracuse/Town of Salina, New York border. Since the late 19th century, several industries have been operating near Ley Creek and its branches. As part of these operations, industrial wastes containing PCB oils and other hazardous substances were discharged into the Creek. In the 1970s, Ley Creek was dredged and redirected through the Town of Salina Landfill by Onondaga County in an effort to control flooding. Dredged material was spread along the shoreline of the Creek and also disposed of at the Town of Salina Landfill.

      For a period of 40 years, General Motors discharged PCBs and other hazardous substances from its Inland Fisher Guide facility into Ley Creek. In May 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice and the EPA reached a legal agreement with Motors Liquidation Company, the successor to the General Motors Corporation after its bankruptcy. Under the agreement, the EPA received approximately $22 million for the environmental cleanup of the Lower Ley Creek area. The final cost of the cleanup will depend upon the actual volume of estimated contaminated material, the degree to which it is contaminated, and where the excavated soil and sediment is properly disposed.

      The cleanup will include excavation and capping of contaminated soil and sediment in Lower Ley Creek and disposal of the excavated soil and sediment. The project area includes the lower two miles of Ley Creek and its shoreline beginning at the Route 11 Bridge and ending downstream at Onondaga Lake. The area also includes Old Ley Creek Channel, an original section of the Creek before Ley Creek was widened and reconfigured during the flood control project. In addition, the area includes a 3.7-acre wetland on the southern bank of the Creek and several sections of riverbank where contaminated dredged sediment was placed during the flood control project.

      During the cleanup, contaminated Creek sediment and soil from the northern and southern banks of the Creek will be excavated. Following the excavation, upland soil areas will be restored with clean soil. The EPA anticipates that the excavated soil and sediment with PCB concentrations less than 50 milligrams per kilogram will be able to be properly disposed of locally. Higher concentration soil and sediment will be disposed of out of the area at a licensed disposal facility.

      The specific local disposal location will be determined during the design phase of the cleanup. One option being considered for the local disposal of the excavated soil and sediment is the Town of Salina Landfill, within a section of the landfill that has a system in place to contain contaminated liquids from the landfill, called leachate. Another local disposal option that is being considered is the Cooper Crouse-Hinds North Landfill, also located in the Town of Salina. This landfill will be capped and closed under the State Superfund program in the near future, but a new cell with a liner could be constructed on top of the existing waste at the landfill, which would also include a leachate collection system. Should local disposal be determined not to be viable, all of the material would be sent to licensed disposal facilities.

      The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. At sites which are placed on the Superfund list of the most contaminated waste sites, the EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and seeks to hold them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups.

      This fall, the EPA will negotiate with parties responsible for contamination at the site to get them to do the engineering and construction work needed to conduct the cleanup work.

      To view the EPA’s Record of Decision for the Lower Ley Creek portion of the Onondaga Lake Superfund site, please visit:

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