EPA Releases Ground Water Samples from the Lehigh Valley Site, N.Y.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently made available the results of ground water sampling taken in December 2011 at the Lehigh Valley Railroad Derailment Superfund site in LeRoy, N.Y. This sampling is part of an ongoing investigation of the nature and extent of the contamination from that site. The results, currently available online, are consistent with previous results from quarterly sampling. These results continue to show that the heaviest contamination is in the western end of the plume area, the source area, with concentrations tailing off as the area moves to the east toward Spring Creek. In previous work, the EPA installed granulated activated carbon treatment systems on 35 private wells affected by the contamination. The EPA also sampled for contaminated vapors in nearby homes and installed vapor intrusion mitigation systems in eleven homes that needed them based on the testing. The mitigation systems have been effective in controlling the vapors.

This sampling data, along with previous data already publicly available, is being analyzed as part of an overall investigation that will allow the EPA to determine the extent and concentration of contamination and what actions may be needed to control or cleanup the contamination. A report detailing all of the testing and summarizing all of the results is expected this summer. As part of the ongoing investigation, the EPA is working to develop plans to conduct further sampling to more specifically identify the eastern edge of the contamination to ensure that the contamination is not impacting areas east of Spring Creek.

“Protecting the health of people who live and work near the Lehigh Valley Superfund site is our highest priority,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “We are working with local residents and business owners to ensure that the contamination is not entering their homes and businesses. The work at the Lehigh Valley site is being done under the Superfund law, which operates on the principle that polluters bear the full costs of hazardous waste cleanups, rather than passing the expenses to taxpayers.”

Levels of trichloroethene (TCE) in the ground water range from 6,000 parts per billion in the immediate spill area on the western end of the plume to 14 parts per billion toward the eastern edge. The EPA continues its work to ensure that the vapors from this contamination are not seeping into homes or buildings, similar to the way that radon gas can, and causing vapors at unacceptable levels.

The Lehigh Valley Derailment Superfund site is the location of a December 6, 1970 train derailment, where approximately one ton of cyanide crystals and approximately 30,000 to 35,000 gallons of TCE spilled on to the railroad right-of-way. The spilled TCE contaminated soil and the ground water beneath the site. The plume of contaminated ground water extends approximately four miles to the east and southeast of the site. Exposure to TCE can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer. The Lehigh Valley Railroad will pay the cost of the cleanup, not tax payers.