The old Scotia Navy Depot is getting one step closer to redevelopment.
Federal officials are starting work this week at the property off Route 5 to drill test borings to determinate where to install an underground barrier to prevent further spreading of a plume of trichloroethylene (TCE).
The chemical is a degreaser used during the repair and assembly of trucks and other vehicles and has been linked to cancer and other health problems.
County officials want the contamination cleaned up because the plume is situated within a portion of the Great Flats Aquifer Protection Zone near the Mohawk River, which is the main source of drinking water for Schenectady County.
The military left the roughly 65-acre site shortly after the Vietnam War. In October 2011, the federal General Services Administration, which owns the property, signed an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up the property at a cost of $3 million to $4 million.
However, not much has been done since then, as the project worked its way through the federal bureaucracy. County officials are excited about the start of work.
“It’s very positive that engineering and site work is under way,” said Ray Gillen, commissioner of economic development and planning for Schenectady County. “We’ve been working on this for many years.”
Test drilling would occur at about 19 sites, according to Gillen. “It’s really to determine the optimal location and the final cost estimates for the [barrier],” he said.
Most of the drilling will be finished by the end of March or early April, Gillen said. The drilling will take place in the 300 block of the former depot where large National Grid overhead wires are situated, according to a press release from the county.
Then, federal officials will analyze the results and have a cleanup plan by July, according to Gillen. The current plan calls for the installation of a permeable reactive barrier that has been effective in the past to break down the chemicals and stop them from spreading.
Gillen said it is too early to talk about the sale of the property until the environmental contamination is addressed.
GSA spokeswoman Renee Miscione said when the barrier is installed will depend on whether the agency receives funding. Miscione was not aware of any other environmental issues besides the TCE contamination.
Miscione added that the federal government also recently removed one of the buildings that partially collapsed in July. Too much weight on the roof caused a collapse in the center of the structure that formerly housed Navy administration and the commissary.
County officials expressed gratitude to GSA and U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, for advocating for the cleanup project.
“This project is not only critical to safeguarding our water supply, but will boost our economic development efforts in the Glenville Business and Technology Park and Schenectady County,” said Schenectady County Legislator Marty Finn in a news release.
Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he was also excited about the news. Town officials have expressed interest in using a portion of the land for a new highway garage to replace the town’s outdated facility on Vley Road.
“The town is not interested in taking the entire property,” he said. “We don’t need it, nor would we want to take it off the tax rolls.”