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EPA to demolish Crown Cleaners site

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HERRINGS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it will spend about $7 million to demolish a building and remove contaminated soil at the Crown Cleaners site.

According to the EPA, the site has been contaminated with several volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Both substances have been linked to cancer in people and animals.

“EPA’s work at the site during the next phase of the cleanup is a step forward in our effort to protect the health of people who live or work near this abandoned facility,” Judith A. Enok, EPA regional administrator, said in a statement announcing the decision. “Removing contaminated materials and cleaning up the groundwater will reduce the health risks from this site.”

In addition to clearing the building and soil, sediment from western wetland areas will be cleared. The soil will be sent to a licensed off-site disposal site.

The agency will treat contaminated groundwater using chemicals called oxidants and restore disturbed wetlands. Plans for the site call for restrictions on future activities that could affect cleaned areas and prohibit any future residential construction on the property.

The site first operated as a paper bag manufacturer from 1890 until the 1960s, until its purchase by Crown Cleaners of Watertown Inc. Following the purchase, the site was used as a laundry and dry cleaning facility. The agency noted several flaws in its operation, including the discharge of wastewater through foundation walls into the ground and the dumping of used dry cleaning machine filters on site property.

In 1991, a chemical spill at the site contaminated the Herrings water supply with tetrachloroethylene, a chemical that has caused nervous-system injuries.

The EPA secured the property in 2001, removing several contaminants in the building, such as sludge and debris and 5,000 gallons of waste oil and asbestos-containing material, and demolishing an unstable portion of the main building and a smoke stack. The site was added to the EPA’s Superfund list in 2002.

The decision about how the agency would proceed with clearing the site follows a public hearing held in January. At the meeting, officials from Herrings and the town of Wilna spoke about purchasing the site.

Phone messages left with both municipalities’ offices early Friday afternoon were not returned.

Michael J. Basile, a spokesman for the agency’s regional office, said planning to clear the site will begin immediately, with first activity tentatively scheduled to begin within the next three to five months.

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