The effort to clean up about 65 acres at the old Scotia Navy Depot has cleared a major hurdle, as it’s been included in President Obama’s proposed budget.
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, made the announcement Thursday, praising the inclusion of the project.
In a news release, Schumer called it “a huge boost to the community, to the environment and the local economy.”
In all, $15.78 million is earmarked in the proposal to clean up the depot property off Route 5 in Glenville. The target is a toxic plume in the ground under the facility, the leftovers of degreasers used during the repair and assembly of trucks and other vehicles during the Vietnam War.
It hasn’t been used since shortly after the war.
The county has been trying to get the site cleaned up for a decade. It is bordered on two sides by the Glenville Business and Technology Park, making a decontaminated depot site a prime development property.
Though inclusion in the president’s budget proposal is not a guarantee of funding, officials said it is an important first step. Schumer and Tonko said they vowed to work to ensure the funding request is included. The final budget is to come later in the year.
The chemical in the plume, called trichloroethylene, has been linked to cancer and other health problems.
The plume is within a portion of the Great Flats Aquifer Protection Zone near the Mohawk River, county officials have said. The aquifer supplies drinking water for Schenectady and surrounding communities.
The federal General Services Administration, which owns the site, signed an agreement in 2011 with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up the property. But funding for that work wasn’t allocated.
The plan is to install a barrier under the surface of the depot to break down the contamination.
At the time of the 2011 agreement, officials estimated the cleanup cost to be between $3 million and $4 million. It was unclear Thursday why the cleanup cost is now estimated at more than $15 million.
In February 2013, though, officials started test borings of the soil around the depot to determine where to install the underground barrier. Officials said then the borings, 19 in all, would help determine the final cost of the barrier.
The federal government also will have to monitor the site for 30 years.
Ray Gillen, chairman of the county Metroplex Development Authority, called the announcement “fantastic news.”
“It’s important for the environment to get this cleaned up,” Gillen said. “It’s important to everyone.”
It also helps development, he said. He said Schumer and Tonko have been pushing to get the project funded. The site is not far from Exit 26 of the Thruway and Interstate 890.
“This is a major boost to economic development and the environment in Schenectady County,” Gillen said.