The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced the addition of the Dewey Loeffel Landfill in Rensselaer County, New York to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The landfill is contaminated with toxic substances that include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the ground water beneath the landfill and in area streams and tributaries that feed Nassau Lake.
PCBs were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment and are suspected carcinogens; PCB Health Problems also include neurological effects. The toxic chemicls were banned in 1979.
The agency will evaluate the efficacy of remediation conducted, to date, as well as contamination risks to determine future actions to address contamination threats. The EPA has also scheduled a public meeting on Thursday, March 24, 2011 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the St. Mary’s Church parish hall at 26 Church Street in Nassau, New York to discuss the Dewey Loeffel site and the Superfund process.
“The addition of the Dewey Loeffel Landfill to the federal Superfund list allows EPA to address risks the landfill may pose to people’s health and to the environment,” EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck said in an EPA press release. “Residents and local government officials have expressed their concerns, and EPA will do a thorough investigation to determine the best course of action to address the toxic contamination.”
Hazardous waste dumping at the Dewey Loeffel Landfill resulted in contamination of nearby streams and tributaries. Of note, EPA received more than 200 comments from residents concerning it 2010 proposal to add the Dewey Loeffel Landfill to the Superfund list. The main contaminants at the landfill include solvents, waste oil, PCBs, scrap materials, and sludge. Several fish species are contaminated with PCBs. Also, the Valatie Kill and Nassau Lake fisheries were closed and have been monitored by New York State since 1980 because of site-related PCB contamination, said the EPA. A health advisory for Nassau Lake has been in place by the New York State Department of Health advising people not to eat fish there due to PCB contamination.
From 1952 until 1968, the landfill was a disposal site for over 46,000 tons of waste materials generated by several companies, including General Electric (GE), Bendix Corporation, and Schenectady Chemicals. In 1968, New York State ordered that discharges from the landfill be stopped and cleanup work performed; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has overseen the investigation and cleanup since 1980 when GE also agreed to further investigate and conduct clean-up. From 1982 to 1984, some 500 drums and four 30,000-gallon oil storage tanks were removed from the landfill and a slurry wall, clay cap, and leachate collection system were installed. Since 1984, New York State has maintained the landfill and waste disposal off-site and from 2001 to 2004, under NYSDEC oversight, GE removed 15,000 tons of PCB-contaminated soil and sediment.
We recently wrote that the EPA completed its investigation of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York; the investigation confirmed the widespread presence of numerous contaminants, including PCBs. The investigation confirmed that a combination of historical and ongoing sources contaminated the Gowanus Canal including past industrial activities there. Also, GE dumped PCBs between 209,000 and 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the upper and lower Hudson River from two capacitor manufacturing plants in Hudson Falls and St. Edwards. According to the EPA, the site involves some 200 miles of New York’s Hudson River from Hudson Falls to New York City’s Battery area. And, the EPA just added New York City’s Newtown Creek to its Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) of the country’s most hazardous waste sites.
We have also been following recent discoveries of PCBs in New York City Schools. EPA believes many schools built in the U.S. before 1979 have unacceptable PCB levels in ballasts, caulk, and tiling.