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Remnants of former GM plant to be removed by early spring

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MASSENA - All rubble and remaining materials from the former Generals Motors Powertrain plant are expected to be cleared from the site by early spring.

The remediation on the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site is now in the final steps of digging out a large concrete slab and contaminated soil beneath the former plant, with the next phase of work scheduled to begin once the cold weather breaks, EPA Project Manager Anne Kelly said.

“The work is essentially complete. There is still a lot of dirt that on site that needs to be trucked off, but it’s tough to be getting on roads at this time of year,” Ms. Kelly said. “We don’t want to be shipping waste in weather like this.”

Ms. Kelly said weather conditions over the last two months slowed work down so significantly that it “didn’t make sense” to continue work, and they elected to cover and secure the site until temperatures warm up. Cleanup crews on the site have finished all the subsurface excavation, whichs refers to anything more than two feet underground, according to Brendan Mullen, cleanup manager for the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust.

Mr. Mullen expects crews to “gradually ramp up (cleanup) activities” near the end of March or early April and complete the work by the end of November.

Crews demolished the former automotive plant in 2011, and spent much of last year removing the 20-acre, 855,000-square-foot concrete slab that once was underneath the factory and the contaminated soils below it. That $15.3 million job went to D.A. Collins Companies in Wilton, Saratoga County.

When the work is finished, there will be a flat bed of gravel where the former plant once stood.

“It’ll look nice and neat once the snow is gone. It looks pretty neat now, actually,” Ms. Kelly said.

The next phase of work was awarded to Perras Environmental Control, Inc., a family-owned environmental services firm in Massena. Approximately 25 to 30 Perras employees will be on the job most days. “Bearing cost in mind, bearing qualifications, bearing project approach and management, we selected Perras for that work, and we’re very comfortable going forward with them,” Mr. Mullen said.

That work, at the northern edge of the property, involves dismantling three buildings and the excavation and off-site disposal of an estimated 58,000 cubic yards of PCB-impacted soils. Three process-water lagoons will be drained, excavated and filled with clean soil. Excavators will dig as deep as 50 feet in some places.

Throughout previous stages of remedial work, these lagoons were utilized to store contaminated wastewater. During this phase of the project, that wastewater will be treated and then discharged into the St. Lawrence River.

Some task force members expressed concern that the depth of the digging may cause some contaminated wastewater to spill into the St. Lawrence River before it is treated.

However, Mr. Mullen said the lagoons are far enough away from the river, the soil there is firm, and he expressed confidence tthat Perras will be able to handle the excavation work without significant spillage.

“The reality is that excavation site is pretty well set-back from the river. At the formation there the ground is really tight, so even though you’re (digging) in ground water, that ground water will not be going anywhere,” Mr. Mullen said.

Perras previously performed remediation work at the site for GM. Perras also has experience with remediation projects for Alcoa’s Massena Operations, the longest continually operating aluminum facility in the world, and the former Reynolds Metals Company, also in Massena.

This phase of remediation will involve the dismantling and removal of a 21,500-square-foot storage building and removal of impacted soils beneath, and dismantling and removal of a 10,000-square-foot wastewater treatment plant, which has been replaced by a new onsite treatment facility. A smaller building that supported the former wastewater treatment plant also will be dismantled and removed.

Task force members commended RACER for utilizing local contractors.

“This is great news for Massena and St. Lawrence County, both because this important work will soon begin and because it means good jobs for local people and a strong local business,” Anthony J. “Tony” Arquiett, chairman of the task force and a member of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators, said.

RACER officials are hopeful that once this next phase of work is complete and the remaining building are removed from the site, potential developers may more seriously consider the site. The removal of all structures from the site may make it more convenient for interested parties to create plans for how they would develop the site.

“If any entity expressed interest in the site, we’d work with (Mr. Mullen and Ms. Kelly) to carve out acreage for them,” said Patricia Spitzley, RACER’s assistant redevelopment manager. “It’s easier to plan out a site when you don’t have buildings and activities taking place on the site.”

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