Lehigh Valley spill results released
On April 12, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the results of ground water sampling conducted in December 2011 at the Lehigh Valley Railroad Derailment site.
A 1970 train derailment on Gulf Road spilled one ton of cyanide crystals and between 30,000 and 35,000 gallons of trichloroethene onto the ground. The chemical spill contaminated the soil and the groundwater beneath.
The EPA and the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation has been monitoring the contamination as it spread eastward over the past 40 years.
Results of the groundwater sampling reveal that the contamination levels are more concentrated near the spill itself and that contamination levels diminish in wells furthest east of the plume. These results are part of an ongoing EPA monitoring procedure that includes regular updates to the public. A complete record of the EPA’s management of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Superfund site is available for public review at the Caledonia Library and Woodward Memorial Library in LeRoy.
Unicorn Management Consultants, LLC of Danbury, Ct. is the firm contracted by the Lehigh Valley Railroad to conduct the groundwater sampling.
At the request of U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, the EPA will now expand the monitoring procedures at locations in Caledonia to determine that the eastern-most edge of the contamination has not spread to impact areas east of Spring Creek.
To make that determination, the EPA may consider installing additional monitoring wells in locations east of Spring Creek and gather the data from the readings.
A press release on Rep. Hochul’s website, dated April 12, reports that the first step the EPA will take is to determine whether there is TCE vapors in the subsurface area. Results of the vapor testing will help the EPA determine whether additional groundwater monitoring wells need to be installed in areas east of Spring Creek.
“This is a worthwhile way to protect the health and environment of everyone living in the area of this Superfund site,” said Michael Basile, public affairs specialist for the EPA and community involvement coordinator for the Lehigh Valley Derailment site.
The EPA notified the Caledonia-Mumford Central School District, and the Town and Village of Caledonia of their plans to expand the monitoring for TCE contamination. Superintendent Robert Molisani said the district would cooperate with the monitoring if it involves the school campus.
Supervisor Daniel Pangrazio and Mayor Joseph Caluorie learned of the EPA testing last Thursday. They too say they will cooperate in any way necessary. Molisani, Pangrazio and Caluorie say they have taken no calls from concerned residents but say that Hochul and Schumer’s offices have notified them of the additional EPA testing and they have spoken with Basile at the EPA’s Buffalo office.
The EPA has monitored the situation at the Lehigh Valley site since it occurred. They held a public meeting in 2010 at a Mumford sportsman club to present the most recent results of groundwater sampling of the monitoring wells.
Unicorn Management Consultants will collect and provide the data from the additional testing and the EPA will conduct a remedial investigation, feasibility study, proposed remedial action plan and final record of decision. The results of the most recent testing and each of these EPA findings will be shared with the public, Basile said.
You can view a complete list of the results of the December 2011 groundwater sampling online at: epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/lehighvalley/relateddocs.htm. These documents will be added to the Lehigh Valley Derailment records available for public viewing at Caledonia and LeRoy libraries within the next few weeks.
Thirty-five private wells within the spill’s plume were found to be contaminated with TCE back in the 1990s as a result of the derailment. Several homes also had vapor contamination. The EPA installed water treatment systems and vapor intrusion mitigation systems to remediate the contamination. Later, the Monroe County Water Authority extended public water to the affected homes as well as areas not affected by the contamination. Two years ago, the MCWA extended its service to include Village of Caledonia residents.
Mayor Caluorie says it’s important for residents to know that this was not a response to contamination of the village water supply. It was recommended that the village abandon its private wells and connect to the MCWA service that was expanding to include the Caledonia area. A study at that time by the NYSDH determined that shallow underground wells could be at risk for possible surface contamination.