April 17, 2003

Ithacans Protest Cleanup Settlement

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The Ithaca Gun Company’s former site has been the subject of much controversy as all groups involved have resisted taking responsibility for a potentially expensive cleanup after investigators uncovered lead contamination there. A group of Ithaca residents responded in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protesting the current settlement for the factory’s cleanup.

The settlement calls for a $4 million federal cleanup and asks for monetary contributions from the city of Ithaca, State Street Associates, L.P. II and Fall Creek Redevelopment. The EPA can either modify or withdraw its consent from the agreement if it feels that the agreement does not live up to appropriate, adequate standards.

Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, a company that specializes in the mapping of environmental contamination hazards, and Ithaca resident Fay Gougakis were the original signatories of the letter, which states that Cornell University and Ithaca Gun Co. should be responsible for the costs of the cleanup.

After being granted a 15-day extension on the settlement’s public discussion period, originally slated to end on March 13, Hang and Gougakis were able to secure 26 additional signatures for the letter. Among those who signed the letter were Cayuga Nation member Timothy Two Guns and many residents of the city’s Fall Creek neighborhood.

The letter states that the signatories “believe that taxpayers must not bear financial responsibility for cleaning up toxic problems that they did not create,” and furthermore that they “urge the EPA to require the Ithaca Gun Company and Cornell University, two former owners of portions of the site, to contribute to the cleanup cost.”

The EPA settlement calls for the City of Ithaca, which bought the property on Lake Street from Cornell in 2000 for one dollar, to contribute $150,000 to the cleanup. State Street Associates, L.P. II, which owns the buildings at 121-125 Lake St., is to pay $165,000, while Fall Creek Redevolpment, which plans to purchase and renovate the property, is slated to pay $50,000.

Hang said that Cornell had “[done] their utmost to evade liability for at least five years,” at the time of the city of Ithaca’s purchase of the property.

“Cornell was totally aware of what was going on,” Hang said.

Hang expressed the most concern about the settlement’s potential long-term consequences, saying that it could “set an incredibly bad precedent that would ultimately take the liability from the responsible parties and shift it to the taxpayers