July 14, 2014 -- Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the second phase of cleanup work will begin this week at the Mercury Refining Superfund site, a former mercury reclamation facility in the towns of Colonie and Guilderland, N.Y. Soil, sediment and groundwater at the site became contaminated with mercury as a result of past operations and waste disposal practices.
In 2013, the first phase of the cleanup was conducted to remove contaminated surface soil and sediment at the facility as well as in an unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek adjacent to the facility. In 2014, the cleanup will target the deeper contaminated soil and groundwater. The work is estimated to take three months, and the value of the cleanup is estimated at $9.3 million.
During the cleanup, areas of soil contaminated with mercury will be solidified and stabilized by turning them into a leak-proof solidified mass that extends 60 to 70 feet underground. The process will be done in several steps. It will begin with the clearing of concrete and debris from the surface and the removal of the first seven to eight feet of the surface soil. This material will be sent off-site for disposal at a licensed facility.
Moreover, toxic pollutants further underground will be treated by mixing the soil with cementing materials and a sulfur compound. The sulfur compound acts to chemically stabilize mercury in both the soil and groundwater into an immobile state that will harden and lock the mercury in place. The process is similar to making concrete. The solidification process also provides the soil strength necessary to allow for site reuse after the cleanup. Clean material will be placed atop the solidified mass.
Health and safety procedures, including air monitoring around the work zone and site perimeter, will be in place to protect the surrounding community. The cleanup work will be completed by the end of 2014. The current owner, 26 Railroad Ave, Inc., will be responsible for ensuring that land-use restrictions at the site are followed to ensure that the treated soil and groundwater are not disturbed and that no drinking water wells are installed.
From about 1956 to 1998, Mercury Refining, Inc. used an industrial oven to recover mercury from mercury-containing materials, including batteries, thermometers, pressure regulators, and dental amalgams. As a result of these activities, soil at the facility became contaminated with mercury and contaminated soil, and stormwater drained into the unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek. Mercury reclamation activities ended at the site in 1998. The site was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1983, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation oversaw various cleanup actions there until the EPA assumed the lead for the cleanup in 1999.
During the first phase of the cleanup, which occurred between October and December 2013, contaminated soil at the surface, which is more easily accessible to people, was excavated and taken to a disposal facility. The work also included the removal of contaminated sediment from the unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek. More than 5,500 tons of non-hazardous sediment, soil, debris, concrete, and asphalt, as well as 172 tons of hazardous soil and asphalt were excavated and properly disposed of off-site.
Additionally, 3,500 gallons of water, including decontamination water and water pumped from the tributary to the Patroon creek, were collected and treated and disposed of off-site. All excavated areas were filled with clean soil and re-planted with vegetation. Perimeter air monitoring was conducted throughout the soil, and sediment excavation activities and all air quality requirements were met.