EPA Proposes Cleanup Plan for Mercury Refining Superfund Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on April 18 a plan to clean up the Mercury Refining Superfund site located in Colonie, N.Y. The site includes the Mercury Refining Co.(MRC) property and portions of adjoining properties occupied by the Allied Building Products Corp., the Diamond W. Products Co., the Albany Pallet and Box Co., and part of an unnamed tributary to Patroon Creek, located just south of the property. EPA's preferred plan will address contaminated soil, sediment, and ground water at the site.

"We encourage residents to come out to the public meeting to learn about our proposed cleanup plan and get their questions answered," said Alan J. Steinberg, regional administrator. The meeting will take place Tuesday, April 22, at 7 p.m. at the Fuller Road Firehouse, 1342 Central Avenue in Colonie. "Since EPA took the lead on this site, our main goal has been to assess and, ultimately, carry out a plan that will address all the components of this property," Steinberg said.

Under the agency's proposed plan, on-site mercury contaminated soils that are shallow and accessible would be excavated and disposed of off-site. Contaminated soils that are deeper and less accessible would be treated on-site. The treatment technology specified by the plan locks in and prevents the mercury contamination from spreading into the ground water. The plan also calls for removal of contaminated sediment from the unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek, which receives stormwater from the MRC property. The sediment would be dewatered and disposed of at an off-site landfill.

MRC was founded in 1955 and accepted mercury from mercury batteries and other mercury-bearing materials, such as thermometers and dental amalgams. The recovered mercury was then refined and marketed. Before 1980, waste contaminated with mercury was dumped over an embankment of the unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek, and contaminated storm water drained off the site into the tributary. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 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 of the tributary.

In 1983, EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List of the most contaminated sites in the country. In the mid-1980s, MRC was directed by NYSDEC, which served as lead agency for the site at the time, to investigate and remove certain areas of soil containing mercury and PCBs, which were contaminated by the waste materials dumped over the embankment before 1980, both on and off the property. Clay and asphalt/concrete caps were placed over the excavated area. NYSDEC directed MRC 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 NYSDEC, EPA took over as lead agency and subsequently initiated and completed a remedial investigation and feasibility study of the site. The study was based on past data that was collected before 1999 and additional data to complete the characterization of the site. EPA's proposed plan is based on the data and analysis performed for the study.

A 30-day public comment period on the proposed plan began March 30. EPA will select a final cleanup plan for the site after reviewing and considering all information submitted during the public comment period. Interested individuals can send comments to EPA's Thomas Taccone, Taccone.tom@epa.gov. More information about the Mercury Refining Superfund site and the proposed plan can be found at http://epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/mercuryrefining/.

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