Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Superfund Site by Any Other Name, Is Still a Superfund Site

By: Duane Craig

It is no doubt a dubious honor to have a Superfund site named after you. This usually happens to corporations, but not so in the case of Dewey Loeffel, who was once associated with the Loeffel Waste Oil Removal and Service Company.

According to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Record of Decision, the current contamination at the Dewey Loeffel Landfill site is largely the work of General Electric, Bendix Corporation and Schenectady Chemicals (SI Group Inc.). Still, the site bears Dewey’s name.

GE and SI Group recently agreed to collect and properly dispose of contaminated groundwater and liquid leaching from the landfill to try to prevent some nearby drinking water wells from being contaminated with waste oils, polychlorinated biphenyls, scrap materials, sludge and solids. This site was added to the Superfund list in May 2011, after numerous state investigations and cleanups, according to a press release from the Environmental Protection Agency. In late 2011, the EPA started operating the groundwater and leachate collection systems the state had installed.

Loeffel Waste Oil Removal and Service Company disposed of waste at the site from 1952 to 1968. The process was pretty simple. The company collected hazardous materials in 55-gallon drums and brought them to the landfill, where they were either dumped into an oil pit or one of two lagoons. One lagoon covered about an acre, and another one covered five acres. Drums that came in full, but couldn’t be reused, were either dropped into the lagoon or buried in the soil. The company separated recyclable oily wastes in the pit and then pumped the non-recyclables into the lagoon. Sometimes, waste materials were simply burned.

Needless to say, this caused quite a mess, according to the EPA’s narrative about the site. PCBs migrated into aquifers and downstream waterways and are now concentrated in groundwater, surface water, sediments and species of fish. Two fisheries had to be closed, and there were documented cases of fish and cattle kills.

The NYSDEC figured there were 37,530 tons of waste brought in from GE. Other sources contributed another 8,790 tons. A judgement against Loeffel Waste Oil Removal and Service Company in 1968 required it to stop operating the way it was and to take some remedial action, which it did. After that, the company operated as a waste transfer operation until 1980. During this time, a number of industrial companies brought their own waste to the site, where it was stored in above-ground storage tanks.

Eventually, GE signed an agreement with New York state, called the Seven Sites Agreement, that included the Dewey Loeffel Landfill site as one where it would investigate and undertake remedial actions. And somewhere along the way, perhaps unknown to Dewey at the time, his name was donated.

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