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EPA Finalizes Plan to Address Contamination At Mercury Refining Superfund Site

Release Date: 10/29/2008
Contact Information: Kristen Skopeck (518) 747-4389,

(New York, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced its final plan to clean up contamination at the Mercury Refining Superfund site in the towns of Guilderland and Colonie, New York. The plan will address soil, sediment, and ground water contaminated with mercury.

“While the most immediate risks posed by this site were addressed by others many years ago, mercury is still present at levels that can be dangerous if people are directly exposed,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. This cleanup plan will take care of that potential threat.

Under the plan, called a Record of Decision (ROD), contaminated soils that are at the surface and more easily accessible to people, will be excavated and disposed of off-site. Contaminated soils that are deeper will be treated in place using a technology that solidifies and stabilizes the soil and prevents the mercury contamination from spreading into the ground water. The ROD also calls for the removal of contaminated sediment from an unnamed tributary to Patroon Creek, which receives stormwater from the Mercury Refining property. The excavated creek sediment will be dried and disposed of at an off-site landfill. The cleanup plan will reduce potential risks to people who might come into direct contact with the soil or drink from the ground water; the ground water is not currently used as a drinking water source. The plan also addresses ecological concerns by removing contaminated sediment from the unnamed tributary to Patroon Creek.

Mercury from mercury batteries and other materials, such as thermometers, pressure regulators, and dental amalgam was recovered, refined, and marketed by the Mercury Refining Company (MERECO) at the site from the mid 1950s to 1998. Prior to 1980, waste contaminated with mercury was dumped over an embankment between an old process building and the railroad tracks to the south of the MERECO property, and mercury-contaminated stormwater drained off the site into the unnamed tributary to the creek.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) sampled the area around the tributary in the early 1980s and found polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury contamination on the southern edge of the property and the embankment.

In 1983, EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List of abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. In 1985, MERECO entered into an agreement with NYSDEC, which was the lead agency for the site at the time, to investigate and remove certain areas of soil containing mercury and PCBs. MERECO removed the PCB contamination and some of the mercury contamination, but a significant amount of mercury remained on the site. MERECO also capped two areas containing high concentrations of mercury.

Subsequently, NYSDEC directed MERECO to conduct several additional investigations in the 1980s and 1990s to determine the full extent of mercury contamination in the soil, ground water, and sediment and to evaluate potentially suitable corrective measures for addressing the contamination. In 1999, at the request of the NYSDEC, EPA took over as lead agency. EPA conducted an extensive investigation and evaluated various cleanup options. EPA presented a proposed cleanup plan to the public this past April. After evaluating public comments, EPA selected the proposed plan as the final remedy.

The ROD and other supporting documents are available at two information repositories: the EPA Superfund Records Center at 290 Broadway, New York, New York 10007, and the William K. Sanford Town Library, 629 Albany Shaker Road, Albany, New York 12211.

Further information about the Mercury Refining Superfund site can be found at: For a Google Earth aerial view of the Mercury Refining Site: (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit For more information on Superfund visit: