EPA Reaches Agreement with General Electric Company and SI Group Inc. to Protect N.Y. Superfund Site Drinking Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it has entered into an agreement with the General Electric Company and SI Group, Inc. (formerly Schenectady Chemical) to collect and properly dispose of contaminated ground water and liquid leaching from the Dewey Loeffel landfill that is threatening several nearby drinking water wells. The liquid seeping from the landfill, called leachate, and the ground water are contaminated with volatile organic compounds, which can cause cancer in people. The extent and nature of potential health effects depend on many factors, including the level and how long people are exposed to the contaminants.

The EPA is currently collecting the contaminated liquid waste and sending it off-site for disposal. Under the agreement, General Electric and SI will take on the collection and removal of the waste and the construction of a treatment plant adjacent to the landfill, all with EPA oversight. The waste will continue to be sent off-site until the construction of the treatment plant is completed. Treated water from the new system will be discharged to surface water only after the EPA verifies that sampling data shows that the treatment system is working effectively and is capable of meeting stringent state discharge limits. GE and SI Group have agreed to reimburse EPA for certain costs, including an upfront payment of $800,000.

“The EPA has determined that treating the contaminated ground water and liquid at the site is an effective way to protect people’s drinking water wells while the EPA investigation of the site continues,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The treatment system that will be constructed near the landfill will alleviate the impacts of the hundreds of truck trips needed to dispose of the waste off-site.”

The treatment system to be constructed will address potential threats from the contaminated ground water and leachate and community concerns about trucking the contaminated liquid off-site. A comprehensive long-term study is underway, which will identify permanent cleanup options, called remedial actions, for the contaminated ground water, surface water and sediment associated with the site. The permanent cleanup plan may include changes to the leachate collection, ground water extraction and treatment systems.  

The Dewey Loeffel Landfill site is located in southern Rensselaer County, approximately four miles northeast of the village of Nassau. From 1952 until 1968, the site was used for the disposal of an estimated 46,000 tons of waste materials generated by several Capital District companies. The waste included industrial solvents, waste oils, polychlorinated biphenyls, scrap materials, sludge and solids. Volatile organic compounds and other hazardous substances have seeped out of the landfill and contaminated the ground water. PCBs have also moved downstream, causing contamination of sediment and several species of fish in and near Nassau Lake.

From 1980 until the site was added to the federal Superfund list in May 2011, numerous investigations and cleanup actions were performed at the site under the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Superfund program. In the fall 2011, the EPA took responsibility for operating ground water and leachate collection systems that had been installed by the state.