November 14, 2013

Former Factory Inches Closer to Cleanup

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A former gun factory located off West Campus entered the public comment phase of a government program that aims to clean up environmental contaminants and promote commercial development.

The site is participating in the Brownfield Cleanup Program, which is administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The program aims to address the environmental, legal and financial barriers that often hinder the redevelopment and reuse of contaminated properties, according to a guide to the program.

The draft for the cleanup of the former Ithaca Gun factory is now complete, and public comments about the plan will be accepted for the next month. The site was likely contaminated during the course of its occupation by Ithaca Gun Company from 1885 to 1986, according to NYSDEC’s work plan for the site.

In the course of manufacturing firearms and ammunition, the factory also conducted activities like spray-painting, forging and metal plating, according to the work plan.

“Prior uses by the Ithaca Gun Company appear to have led to contamination of both on-site and near off-site areas,” the work plan says.

Located on Lake Street and approximately 1.6 acres in size, the property is currently vacant. Zoned for industrial use, it has been home to the Ithaca Manufacturing Company — a producer of manufacturing equipment — as well as another gun producer, W.H. Baker & Company.

The possibility of environmental contamination on the site was first suspected when lead bullets were found in the gorge area near the property, according to the work plan. The Environmental Protection Agency led soil removal activities mostly around the site — although there was some removal activity on the property — in 2000. The site owner in 2001 funded a site assessment and investigation; the buildings on the site were removed in 2009.

Since then, “post-demolition site investigation activities have included surface soil screening, sampling and groundwater sampling,” according to the work plan.

The NYSDEC is concerned about the presence of lead in the site’s soil and the presence of tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethene in the site’s groundwater. There is no risk of this contamination reaching the drinking supply in Ithaca, since “the area is served by a public water supply that obtains its water from a different source not affected by this contamination,” according to the NYSDEC website.

However, those who enter the site could be affected by the contaminants if they disturb the soil in any way. “Currently, there are no buildings on the site, so inhalation of site contaminants in indoor air due to soil vapor intrusion does not represent a concern for the site in its current condition,” according to the NYSDEC website.