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Owner of defunct firm in Ballston Spa seeks brownfields aid

Contamination believed from former tannery

Monday, June 11, 2012
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Angelica Textile Services at 125 Bath St. Ballston Spa.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Angelica Textile Services at 125 Bath St. Ballston Spa.

— The owner of the former Angelica industrial laundry building on Bath Street is seeking state assistance in cleaning up contamination at the longtime industrial site.

The site is a former leather tannery and is where Angelica had its Ballston Spa health-care laundry operations, which closed in late 2010, eliminating 100 local jobs. Angelica Textile Services of Alpharetta, Ga., has applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s brownfield cleanup program for any available assistance.

The application comes after a viscous petroleum-like material was found leaching from a parking lot behind the main building in June 2010, said Mel Davis, a senior vice president of Angelica. Once it was determined more than five gallons were involved, DEC was notified, he said.

A subsequent investigation by Angelica has determined the substance was related to the site’s previous use as a leather tannery, though the types of pollution and extent of contamination still haven’t been determined.

“We don’t have the details, but it is tannery-related,” Davis said.

He said Angelica is committed to conducting a cleanup, though the cost of any remediation isn’t yet known.

“Ultimately, we’re going to clean up the site,” Davis said. “We’d like to see it redeveloped.”

Angelica has owned the property since the late 1970s, but the site has a long industrial history. There were tanneries there starting in the late 19th century.

DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said the application is under initial evaluation to see whether it qualifies for any brownfield restoration programs.

Potentially, DEC could offer tax credits for an owner-funded site cleanup, and once cleared of any contamination the property could be used for another purpose.

The Angelica site contains an 80,000-square-foot building located on 6.35 acres next to the Gordon Creek.

The property was the site of a tannery called Haight’s Tannery starting in about 1887, and then became American Hide and Leather. In about 1900, it was said to be the largest tannery in the United States.

The current brick building was built for tannery use between 1945 and 1950, replacing most of the older tannery buildings, according to information filed with the DEC.

Angelica used the former tannery as an industrial laundry. The company cleans linens for large health-care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes. It was bringing hospital sheets and other linens from Long Island to be cleaned in Ballston Spa.

Davis said the operation’s closing in late 2010 was due to a decline in business, and was unrelated to the discovery of the contamination the previous summer. “It’s coincidence,” he said.

During 2011, a voluntary investigation of the pollution problem was under way, Davis said, and the building was used for temporary storage.

In recent months, though, the building has been unused.

Village officials want to see another industrial or commercial tenant in the building, and support anything that will help make that happen.

Mayor John Romano said the possibility of a cleanup is good news for the village.

“I think it’s a very positive step forward in hopefully cleaning up the site and opening it to the potential for new businesses,” he said.

DEC is taking public comments on the application through Monday, July 9. Comments can be sent to Michael McLean at DEC’s Region 5 headquarters in Ray Brook, or to mpmclean@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Davis said Angelica hopes the state hears from people who know something about the site’s industrial history and how the contamination may have occurred.

 
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