Environmental Protection

Company Must Remove PCB-contaminated Materials from GM Superfund Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Motors Liquidation Company (MLC), formerly the General Motors Corporation (GM), to remove materials and soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from portions of the General Motors Central Foundry Division Superfund site in Massena, N.Y.

MLC intends to demolish several buildings at the site, a former General Motors plant, that are contaminated with PCBs, which pose significant threats to human health and the environment.

Under the order, MLC will be responsible for additional sampling, decontamination of the building and its contents, demolition of the building, removal of PCB-contaminated soil beneath the building and restoration of the area. EPA’s oversight of the work will ensure that any PCB-contaminated material and soil handled as part of demolition and excavation operations at the site comply with all federal and state laws and regulations.

PCBs have been found in the plant’s equipment, the piping and concrete flooring, and in tunnels and soil located underneath the buildings. These PCBs could pose a threat of further release in the event of improper demolition and excavation activities.

PCBs were banned by Congress in 1976 and have been demonstrated to cause various adverse health effects. They cause cancer in animals, and EPA has classified PCBs as a probable human carcinogen. PCBs also can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems and cause other health effects.

The 270-acre General Motors Central Foundry Division site is bordered by the St. Lawrence River to the north, the St. Regis Mohawk Nation to the east, the Raquette River to the south, and property owned by Alcoa and Conrail to the west. There are approximately 4,000 members of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe living in the adjacent territory referred to as Akwesasne. The city of Cornwall, Ontario, with approximately 50,000 residents, is located about two miles north across the river, and the Village of Massena, with a population of 11,000, is located approximately seven miles to the east.

The GM facility operated as an aluminum diecasting plant from 1959 to May 2009. Until 1980, PCBs were a component of hydraulic fluids used in diecasting machines at the facility. During GM’s operations, PCB-laden sludge from one of the industrial lagoons and from the wastewater treatment plant was periodically dumped in two onsite disposal areas and an onsite landfill.

EPA added the General Motors Central Foundry Division site to the Superfund National Priorities List on Sept. 1, 1984. GM had been cleaning contaminated areas of the site under two EPA cleanup plans, but since the buildings at the facility were being used for manufacturing until early 2009, the buildings themselves had not been included in those cleanups. The cleanup level set for soil at the site is 10 milligrams per kilogram.

Additionally, GM or MLC donated and auctioned off manufacturing equipment and office furniture from the site, some of which has been recently shown to contain PCBs. MLC has offered to collect this equipment or furniture at no cost to the buyer or recipient. A hotline has been set up for buyers or recipients of equipment or furniture. EPA encourages those who have received such items to contact the hotline to arrange for its return. Anyone with questions about these items or a desire to return them can call MLC at 1.800.414.9607.

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