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EPA to finish Saratoga Springs Superfund cleanup

National Grid to foot $6.5 million bill

Thursday, April 4, 2013
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— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week finalized a plan for the last phase in the cleanup of a federal Superfund site that has been a concern for decades.

National Grid will pay about $6.5 million to clean contaminated soil and groundwater on a half-acre near Excelsior, Warren and High Rock avenues, including near the Old Red Spring.

The EPA will use a type of cement to stabilize contaminated soil and install underground barriers to keep chemicals from coming to the surface. Nonhazardous oxygen-releasing materials and nutrients will be used to break down contaminants in the soil and groundwater.

Afterward, pavement, sidewalks and grass will be restored, and the EPA will require future testing of the groundwater to make sure levels of the chemicals are decreasing.

The ground in that area was contaminated by coal-tar sludge and byproducts from a plant that converted coal to gas for home and business use before natural gas was available. Saratoga Gas Light Co. ran the plant in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

EPA ordered the first site cleanup in 1995 after finding contaminants on the Niagara Mohawk property, at a former skating rink on the southeast corner of Excelsior and East avenues, in stream sediment along the Spring Run Creek and on the former Spa Steel property. NiMo spent $15 million cleaning those areas in 2001 and 2002, removing contaminated soil and sediment and installing underground barriers.

But more cleaning needs to be done, according to the EPA, which proposed the plan in February and held a public meeting March 7 to talk about the cleanup. The EPA has not said when the new phase will start.

“This final phase of the cleanup will address dangerous contaminants remaining at the site,” EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said in a statement. “The completion of the cleanup will ensure that the local environment and health of the people living in the area is protected.”

The pollutants can cause health problems, including potentially raising the cancer risk, according to the EPA, but local residents are at less risk because they drink public water drawn from the Loughberry Lake reservoir rather than groundwater.

During the cleanup, Excelsior Avenue will remain open to traffic, but may be reduced to one lane at times, said EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez.

Although groundwater in the area is contaminated, water from the Old Red Spring’s well is safe to drink; a layer of clay separates the shallow groundwater aquifer from the deep spring aquifer, Rodriguez said.

During the project, the spring’s well will be replaced with an up-to-date, double-cased well because the existing well could be damaged as earth is moved, he said. The pavilion above the spring will stay put.

The Old Red Spring was celebrated starting in the late 1700s for its reported success treating skin diseases.

 
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