CANAJOHARIE — A deal has been reached to clean up the former Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. plant, ending a years-long battle over the future of the property.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Montgomery County entered into the agreement Wednesday.
The effort will result in more than 2,500 tons of debris being removed from the parcel and, ultimately, certification that no residual asbestos remains at the site at the conclusion of the cleanup, according to a prepared statement.
Andrew Santillo, a spokesman for the county, said the cleanup effort is expected to cost between $6 million and $10 million, though the figure is likely to be at the low end of that range.
The county, which took the Beech-Nut property through a foreclosure proceeding earlier this year, has about $800,000 left over from a combination of a Restore New York grant ($500,000) and a National Grid Brownfields Redevelopment grant ($300,000), Santillo said.
But the county has also applied for three grants — with potential funding upwards of $6 million — through the state’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, the Restore New York initiative and the EPA.
“This agreement is a great example of what can be accomplished when federal, state and local governments work together,” said Pete Lopez, EPA Regional Administrator, in a prepared statement announcing the deal. “Even though the county is not legally responsible for cleaning up this site, we are so pleased that we found a willing partner to be part of the solution. This unique approach reinforces EPA’s nationwide efforts to reform and streamline the Superfund process to make it work better for communities.”
According to the consent order outlining the agreement, Montgomery County has 10 days to name a project coordinator and at least one contractor for the cleanup effort, though the EPA has the right to disapprove of any such entities that do not meet certain criteria.
Within 30 days, a detailed site operating plan must be submitted for the work, with guidance from the EPA.
The cleanup is expected to be complete within three months of the operating plan’s approval, according to the EPA order.
“The goal is to have this site, sometime next year, shovel-ready for redevelopment,” Santillo said.
That would be a fresh start for a property that has been the subject of several legal fights in the years since Beech-Nut moved out.
The property comprises several buildings on 27 acres off Thruway Exit 29. Beech-Nut operated a canning facility there from 1891 to 2010, when it moved to the nearby town of Florida, citing concerns about flooding at the Canajoharie site.
It was bought in 2013 by TD Development, which planned to demolish warehouse-style structures on the eastern portion of the land. But that work was never completed, and TD Development fell more than $1.7 million in arrears on taxes before the county took the property.
The EPA earlier this year ordered Beech-Nut to clean up the property, arguing that the firm had done a survey of the parcel in 2012 that showed asbestos contamination but did nothing about it.
Beech-Nut has refused that order, however, and it was unclear what enforcement actions the EPA was willing to pursue.
Now, work will proceed under a consent order that spells out myriad aspects of the cleanup effort, from how and where contaminated material will be disposed to air quality monitoring in and around the site during the work.
The county has been looking at potential uses for the site, once it is again habitable, Santillo said. Among the preferred options is preserving the more historic structures on the western portion of the property.
“All ideas are on the table,” Santillo said, adding that the county will conduct a meeting from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 29 at Canajoharie Village Hall to hear from residents about what they would like to see done with the site in the future.
“Rather than a burden, we’re trying to look at it as an opportunity,” Santillo said.