October 1, 2015

Fall Creek Gorge, Near Student Housing, Tests Positive For Lead Contamination

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Soil in Fall Creek Gorge by Ithaca Falls, less than two blocks away from the Gun Hill apartments where many Cornell students live, tested positive for lead contamination this past June, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA tested different locations along the base of the gorge and found that the samples contained lead in excess 400 parts per million, the maximum allowable level. The City of Ithaca announced on June 16 that it will collaborate with local regulatory agencies to rectify the situation.

The site of contamination was once the location of the Ithaca Gun Factory, which closed its doors in 1986, according to the EPA. Due to the factory’s proximity to Fall Creek, the EPA tested for metals that could have originated from the gun factory.

The EPA announced in a press release that it will begin a clean up effort expected to cost approximately $400,000. As part of the efforts, the EPA will “remove approximately 200 cubic yards of loose stone and lead contaminated soil from a quarter of an acre on a steep slope and walkway in the Falls Creek Gorge,” according to the release.

The area was barricaded and signs were posted to caution public visitors in June.

While some fear the negative health effects that could be caused by lead contamination, the City of Ithaca has not indicated a need for panic over the contamination, according to The Ithaca Voice. Still, Prof. Richard Canfield, nutritional sciences, urged people to be cautious around lead contaminated areas.

“I certainly encourage everyone to stay away from the fenced off area because it is likely to contain significant lead contamination,” he said. “Lead is a neurotoxin that is particularly damaging to the fetus, infant and young child, but people of all ages should limit their exposure as much as possible.”

In addition, he urged people visiting the area who might notice dust blowing from dry soil within the fenced off area, or any evidence of soil escaping from inside the fenced off areas due to runoff, to report it to the appropriate authorities.

Following these announcements, some of the Cornellians living in the Gun Hill apartments have called for clearer signage marking the areas of contamination.

Eva Leung ’16, a resident of Gun Hill, said she “didn’t know about the situation” and added that when she visited the gorge over the summer, she did not notice any warning signs.

Another resident of Gun Hill, Dylan Ciraldo ’16, agreed that the situation should have been publicized more to students in the area.

“My friends and I went down the gorges and we were right where the Ithaca Gun Factory used to be,” he said. “At that point, I didn’t know about the lead contamination. Gun Hill doesn’t tell you anything, I had to slowly piece it together myself.”

Ciraldo added that when he entered the area of Fall Creek Gorge over the summer, he also saw minimal signage.

“Gun Hill apartments are less than a third of a mile away from the site and many people don’t know about the contamination,” Ciraldo said. “Why is there no disclosure law requiring Gun Hill to tell its tenants?”