Additional cleanup might soon be underway at the Cayuga Groundwater Contamination Site in Union Springs, N.Y. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a cleanup plan targeting a discrete area of the Cayuga County site.
The proposed plan involves the continuous monitoring of surface water and groundwater to confirm the effectiveness and anticipated natural decrease of local contaminants. Specifically, the EPA has recommended a process of natural attenuation — i.e., naturally occurring reduction levels of volatile organic compounds located at the site.
Known as Area 3, this specific piece of land is one of three at the site being monitored and periodically tested by the EPA. This plan follows a deferred action from public comments in 2012.
A public meeting was held on Aug. 8 to discuss the situation and answer questions. Additionally, public comments were accepted through Aug. 27.
Cayuga Groundwater Contamination Site Background
Spanning approximately 4.8 miles, the Cayuga Groundwater Contamination Site runs from Auburn to Union Springs, N.Y. The area includes the townships of Aurelius, Fleming, and Springport.
The groundwater at this site is contaminated with volatile organic compounds — i.e., potentially harmful contaminants that evaporate easily — including trichloroethylene, dichloroethane, and vinyl chloride.
Previously, General Electric owned and manufactured semiconductors at a facility in Auburn. The facility was purchased by Powerex, Inc. — a venture of GE and other companies — which used it to conduct similar operations. This warehouse is currently being cleaned up by New York State.
The plume from the facility runs seven miles to Union Springs. It has affected many residential water wells, which have been linked to public water supplies. Municipal drinking water in Union Springs has also been tainted.
EPA Cleanup Efforts
When the contaminated wells were first discovered in December 2000, the EPA began an emergency response action at the site, delivering bottled water to affected residences. In total, 51 residential wells were contaminated, with 24 tainted above the EPA’s Removal Action Levels for vinyl chloride and/or DCE.
To remediate the situation, the EPA installed point-of-entry treatment systems in homes polluted at or above maximum containment levels to ensure residents had safe water. At present, the site is being cared for in two stages — emergency response actions and a long-term remedial phase that focuses on rectifying the situation.
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