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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 31, 2011
Army Corps plans $2.5 million cap for hazardous landfill
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND The Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend $2.5 million to cap and cover an old Army landfill.
The land is now owned by the Northeastern Industrial Park, and was once an Army depot, set up in 1941 as a storage center for the military during World War II. The Army diverted the Black Creek into two halves, and sent waste into the creek or buried it on site. The Black Creek feeds the Watervliet Reservoir, Guilderland’s major source of drinking water. Some of the debris left by the Army is hazardous.
The Army classifies sites that it considers a risk to human health as areas of concern the local depot, located largely in Guilderland Center, has nine. Gregory Goepfert, project manager for the Army Corps, said there is a step-by-step process the Army Corps follows for each AOC. It evaluates risk, conducts an investigation, compares standards with the state, and assesses the risk. If the assessment shows that there is a risk remaining, action will be taken, he said.
Several of the AOCs have already been cleaned up and may require no further action, but at least two still need millions of dollars worth of remediation.
A Restoration Advisory Board, made up largely of local citizens, has pushed for cleanup for more than a decade, but federal funds are limited as many outdated and abandoned depots across the county compete for a limited pool of money.
Areas 1 and 7, located south of Route 146 and approximately one-quarter mile southeast of Guilderland Center, are adjacent to each other, and were a landfill and a disposal area.
Environmental concern was first sparked in the area in 1980, by the Albany County Environmental Management Council, which issued a report containing aerial photographs that showed excavation and disposal activities.
The Army Corps has been conducting tests at AOCs 1 and 7 for over a decade, according to Goepfert. Water from monitoring wells has shown a level of volatile organic compounds trichloroethanol slightly above safety standards in a roughly 2.5 acre parcel of AOC 1.
Trichloroethanol is an organic compound related to ethanol, and it can have sedative effects in humans; chronic exposure can lead to kidney and liver damage. Goepfert said that VOCs like trichloroethanol break down in the air and don’t stay in the soil long enough to pose a real risk.
In order to prevent the continued release of contaminants into the groundwater, the Army Corps has proposed a landfill cover and cap for the 2.5-acre parcel, and a soil cover for the remaining portion of the landfill, which has shown no signs of groundwater contamination in testing.
The project was discussed Tuesday night at a RAB meeting, during which Goepfert said AOC 2, a former bivouac area and post commander’s landfill, property later sold to Joan Burns, has already received $1.2 million in cleanup, and the area requires no further action.
AOC 3, a burn pit close to Guilderland High School, will undergo more testing; an underground plume of contaminants was found to be polluting the groundwater, and in 2002, the Army Corps spent $900,000 on removal action. In 2003, it spent $700,000 on cleanup. A monitoring well at the site will be tested again in June. The high school gets its drinking water from the town’s municipal system. GCSD wells on school grounds are used only to water athletic fields.
AOC 4, a construction and demolition landfill, was not active when the Army depot was in the area, and there is no evidence of contamination, Goepfert said, so there will be no further action there. AOC 5, the only part of the depot that was recently operated by the government and was used to store materials for national defense, is now inactive, and closed. AOC 6, a potential dumping ground for the Army, next to the former wastewater plant, showed no signs of buried waste or significant contamination, Goepfert said, and no further action is required.
AOC 8, the Black Creek, showed evidence of some impacts downstream, but the level of contamination in the soil would be acceptable for use in a residential yard, according to state standards, and no further action will be necessary, said Goepfert.
AOC 9, also known as the Building 60 area, had an oil and water separator removed, and Goepfert said that, since there were no problems with sediment in the Black Creek, no further action would be taken.
Capping rather than removing
The cap for AOC 1 will consist of several layers, including a sub-base, a gas vent, a drainage layer, a two-foot rubberized barrier, and six inches of soil. The cap will prevent water, from precipitation, from soaking into the contaminated soil and into a groundwater plume.
The one-foot soil cover on the remaining eight acres will minimize animal and human contact with the potentially contaminated soil, Goepfert said. It will be graded to provide proper drainage.
Goepfert said the Army Corps will sign on for an annual testing routine, and continue to monitor the groundwater at the site, until it is clear that remediation has worked. The cap has a 50-year warranty, but Goepfert said similar caps have lasted 100 years or more.
“Cap and cover is the best near-term remedy we can recommend; there is no doubt that there is hazardous waste in the area,” said Goepfert. He said he would be hesitant to recommend any type of waste removal effort.
“It doesn’t make sense to remove waste only to have to find somewhere else to put it,” he said.
Earlier, the Army Corps removed waste from the building site of the Guilderland School District bus garage and also from AOC 2, the former post commander’s landfill and bivouac area.
The Northeastern Industrial Park, which owns the land that includes AOCs 1 and 7, has agreed to grant an easement to New York State, and will not sink any wells down-gradient of the landfill, or use any water in the area for drinking, Goepfert said. The park is also prohibited from any construction in AOCs 1 and 7.
The $2.5 million required for the project will be provided by the Formerly Used Defense Sites program. Goepfert said the Army Corps will put in a request for funding for the 2012 fiscal year, since it is too late to request funds for 2011.
Goepfert is optimistic that the project could begin in the summer of 2012.
If there are ever further contamination problems around the site, be it 10, 20, or even 50 years into the future, Goepfert said the Army Corps will take responsibility.
Thaddeus Ausfeld, co-chair of the Restoration Advisory Board and the former manager of water and wastewater in Guilderland, expressed concerns in the past about remediation projects in the AOCs, but he said this week he thought the cap and cover approach was reasonable.
“It leaves a lot of openings for the Army Corps to come back in the future,” Ausfeld said. “With advancing technology, I think we’ll be able to detect more and more, so it’s good to know that they will always come back.”
Goepfert said people can submit comments, feedback, and concerns about the proposal until April 3. He will prepare a “responsiveness summary” with an answer to each question he receives, and attach it to the official decision document for the proposal.