February 25, 2014

Officials: More sources will be required to complete PCB cleanup near Akwesasne

ALBANY — Federal officials say they have removed 335,000 tons of PCBs, contaminated soil and other material at the ongoing Superfund cleanup of a shuttered General Motors factory near Akwesasne, far more waste than expected.

The 270-acre Massena site, also next to the St. Lawrence River, is one of 89 polluted ex-GM industrial locations around the country covered by the $773 million cleanup budget from the company’s 2011 bankruptcy.

Officials have spent about $77 million of the $121 million allocated for Massena and will need to tap other funds to complete their six-year cleanup as planned in 2016, Environmental Protection Agency project manager Anne Kelly said.

In its 2014 update, the EPA said waste removal so far was more than four times the 77,100 tons anticipated in the original settlement agreement.

Kelly said the contamination is being contained and noted there is no evidence groundwater has been tainted.

The waste has been shipped by rail to a landfill in Indiana.


Last year’s excavation of former lagoons where PCB-laden sludge was dumped by the factory went far deeper and wider than expected. 

In one covered lagoon, the weight of the soil on top pushed the waste down and out into the surrounding ground, “squeezing it in every direction,” Kelly said. 

The 5-acre excavation of the lagoons at the north end of the property went down 53 feet in some areas, she said.

“We like that they’re digging up more material than they expected to find,” said Craig Arquette of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Environmental Division. 

But what it shows is that the problem is much bigger than originally thought, he said.

Meanwhile, the tribe still wants the EPA to remove a 12-acre landfill, capped with soil and grass, that stands right next to the reservation, Arquette said. 

“We would prefer them just to keep going, send it all offsite.”

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