Schenectady County

Forum will address cleanup of mercury

The EPA is proposing a plan to clean up the mercury refining Superfund site at 26 Railroad Ave., onc

The EPA is proposing a plan to clean up the mercury refining Superfund site at 26 Railroad Ave., once classified as one of the most contaminated sites in the country.

The site includes the Mercury Refining Company (MERECO) property and portions of other adjoining properties, including the Allied Building Products Corporation, the Diamond W. Products Company and the Albany Pallet and Box Company property. It would also include a portion of the unnamed tributary to Patroon Creek, located just south of the property.

The plan, which will be the subject of a public forum next week, will address contaminated soil, sediment and groundwater on the properties.

“We encourage residents to come out to the public meeting to learn about our proposed cleanup plan and get their questions answered,” said Alan J. Steinberg, Regional Administrator for EPA.

“Since the EPA took the lead on this site, our main goal has been to assess and, ultimately, carry out a plan that will address all the components of this property,” he said.

Under EPA’s proposed plan, mercury-contaminated soils that are shallow and accessible would be excavated and disposed of off-site. Contaminated soils that are deeper and less accessible would be treated on-site.

The treatment locks in and prevents the mercury contamination from spreading into the groundwater, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan also calls for removal of contaminated sediment from the tributary to the Patroon Creek, which receives storm water from the Mercury Refining property.

The sediment would be dewatered and disposed of at an off-site landfill.

EPA will hold a public meeting on the proposed plan at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Fuller Road Firehouse, 1342 Central Ave.

MERECO was founded in 1955 and accepted waste from mercury batteries and other mercury-bearing materials, including thermometers and dental amalgams. The recovered mercury was then refined and marketed.

Before 1980, waste contaminated with mercury was dumped over an embankment of the tributary. The state Department of Environmental Conservation sampled the area around the tributary in the early 1980s and found polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury contamination on the southern edge of the property and the embankment of the tributary.

In 1983, EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List of the most contaminated sites in the country. In the mid-1980s, MERECO was directed by the DEC, which served as lead agency for the site at the time, to investigate and remove certain areas of soil containing mercury and PCBs.

Clay and asphalt or concrete caps were placed over the excavated area and the state DEC directed MERECO to conduct several additional investigations in the 1980s and 1990s to determine the full extent of mercury contamination in the soil, groundwater and sediment and to evaluate potentially suitable corrective measures for addressing the contamination.

In 1999, at the request of the DEC, EPA took over as lead agency and did a remedial investigation and feasibility study of the site. The study was based on data collected before 1999 as well as additional data to characterize the site.

A 30-day public comment period on the proposed plan began March 30.

EPA will select a final cleanup plan for the site after reviewing and considering all information submitted during the public comment period. Interested individuals can send comments to: Thomas Taccone, remedial project manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 290 Broadway, 20th floor, New York, N.Y. 10007-1866 or [email protected]

Further information about the Mercury Refining Superfund Site and the proposed plan can be found at

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