News | June 15, 2015

EPA Proposes Changes To Cleanup Plan At Olean Well Field Site - AVX Property In Olean, NY

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to modify a cleanup plan originally issued in 1996 to address soil and groundwater at the AVX property at the Olean Well Field Superfund Site in Cattaraugus County, Olean, NY. Soil and groundwater at the AVX property located at 1695 Seneca Avenue are contaminated with volatile organic compounds, which are often found in paint, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleaners, disinfectants, automotive products and dry cleaning fluids. Some volatile organic compounds can cause cancer. The extent and nature of potential health effects depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure to the pollution. The modified plan proposed by the EPA calls for utilizing existing barriers such as the building and pavement to contain the soil contamination, as well as building a groundwater collection trench among other steps to contain the groundwater contamination.

The EPA will hold a public meeting on June 23, 2015 to explain the proposed plan and is accepting public comments. The meeting will be held at 7:00 pm at the Jamestown Community College, Cattaragus County Campus, Cutco Theater, 260 North Union Street, Olean, New York. Comments will be accepted until July 15, 2015.

The Olean Well Field is a 1.5 square-mile area located in Cattaraugus County that contains 53 wells, homes, and facilities with manufacturing operations. The Allegheny River and two of its tributaries, the Olean and Haskell Creeks, flow through the site. Previous industrial operations at the AVX property contaminated the soil and groundwater with volatile organic compounds. The site was added to the Superfund list in 1983. The AVX property currently houses an active industrial facility where electronic components are manufactured by AVX Corporation.

Olean city officials discovered volatile organic compounds at the site in 1981 and later installed treatment units for drinking water on private wells. EPA also installed treatment systems on public wells to reduce the contamination to levels that protect human health. Contaminated soil was removed from certain properties within the site. The city water lines were extended from the Town of Olean to connect to approximately 93 homes which were previously served by private wells. Water mains were also extended to provide safe fire hydrants for the community. Five thousand feet of sewer lines were replaced or cleaned. An industrial sewer at the former McGraw-Edison property was inspected, and necessary repairs and replacements were made.

An EPA study identified four properties as sources of contamination. These properties are Alcas (currently owned and operated by Cutco Corporation), McGraw Edison (currently owned and operated by Cooper Power Systems, LLC), the former Loohn’s Dry Cleaners and Launderers property (currently a vacant lot), and the AVX property.

Under the 1996 cleanup plan, a groundwater treatment system was installed at the McGraw-Edison property, and about 10,000 tons of contaminated soil were removed from the Loohn’s property where a dry cleaning building was also demolished. Extensive additional contamination was discovered at both the Alcas and AVX properties after the 1996 cleanup plan. At AVX, approximately 5,000 tons of contaminated soils were removed before the cleanup was halted. Additional studies were then undertaken at each property. In 2014, EPA selected a cleanup plan for the Alcas property that provides for cleanup of the soil and groundwater in the future.

The proposal announced this week addresses the AVX property which occupies 18.5 acres and includes a building and parking areas, as well as wetlands and a wooded area to the south of the building.

EPA is proposing to modify the AVX cleanup because extensive contamination beneath the AVX property was not known at the time of the original cleanup plan. Since additional excavation of contaminated soil would result in significant disruption to and shutdown of the on-going manufacturing operations at the AVX property, EPA has decided to contain the contamination in the soil by preventing it from further contaminating the groundwater until the use of the building changes such that excavation or treatment of soil becomes a viable option.

The new EPA proposed plan utilizes existing barriers such as the building and pavement as well as building a trench and continuously pumping the production well at the AVX property, among other steps, to contain the groundwater contamination until a final remedy is selected. The plan also requires restrictions that will prevent activities that could disturb the site and ensure that use of the property protects people’s health. The EPA will conduct a review every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. AVX Corporation, which is responsible for the AVX property, performed the initial cleanup and additional studies under an agreement with EPA and EPA expects it will enter into an agreement to perform the work being proposed.

SOURCE: US Environmental Protection Agency