Messing With a Masterpiece: The State of Pollution in the Mid-Hudson Valley | Community Notebook | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Messing With a Masterpiece: The State of Pollution in the Mid-Hudson Valley 

Last Updated: 06/18/2013 10:24 pm

Page 3 of 6

The state’s goal in dealing with these sites is, “wherever possible, to bring responsible parties forward to remedy the problems they have caused. When responsible parties cannot be located or lack resources, Federal Superfund is the first public funding source which the State seeks to use. If neither of these funding sources are available or if legal action against the responsible parties is unsuccessful, the State will fund the work using the Hazardous Waste Remedial Fund [often referred to as the New York State Superfund] or the 1986 Bond Act.” The epa had listed and evaluated 1,765 sites in all of New York State as of March 31, 2003 and determined that 985 required/require remediation. Financial commitments for these cleanups totaled about $5.32 billion, with 63 percent coming from the polluters, 25 percent from New York State, and 12 percent from the federal government.

There are other sources of land and water contamination that won’t be on the federal or state lists—yet. Some toxic sites are unknown until someone’s drinking water goes a bit off. Joel Tyner, Dutchess Country Legislator for Rhinebeck/Clinton, has tirelessly been pursuing cases of mtbe contamination in water in the Mid-Hudson Valley. He helped research and publicize the Hyde Park mtbe contamination of residential well water in the Greenbush region, due to a gasoline station leak.4 Tyner has also scoured the dec’s database of reported hazardous spills and identified 27 incidents of mtbe-containing spills/leaks in Dutchess County over the past two decades, 22 of which affected groundwater. And that’s just in one county. Tyner says there are 306 mtbe spills listed for New York State’s dec Region 3 (counties of Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Westchester, and Ulster).

“There should be annual testing of gas stations’ underground tanks for leaks by the Dutchess County Health Department,” he urges. “Rockland and Westchester Counties do this already. And drinking water should be tested for mtbe whenever property is resold.” Dutchess County’s Board of Health is currently discussing an amendment to do so. Fortunately, a law signed in 2000 by Governor Pataki makes the sale, importation, or dispensing of mtbe-containing gasoline an offense carrying a fine of up to $10,000, starting this year. But mtbe is a highly water-soluble toxin that is resistant to degradation, so it easily infiltrates groundwater and contaminates aquifers.

The dec’s spills database is a fascinating and disturbing list of the many times someone must have said “oops”.5 For Dutchess County, there are actually 366 reported spills of hazardous materials in the past 12 months alone—mostly of petroleum products from gas stations or of fuel oil. Some are cleaned up to dec specifications (designated as “closed”) but most are not. They include things like a gallon of antifreeze, or 7 gallons of gasoline due to “tank failure” at a Hyde Park gas station, or 30 gallons at another Hyde Park gas station. Ulster County’s list includes only 18 reported spills, like the 500 gallons of fuel oil due to a tank overfill at 1000 Mountain Rest Road back in April of 2003 (not closed), and various other tank or “equipment” failures at residences or gas stations.

Pollution comes with the territory
There are many industrial facilities that release toxic waste materials as part of their routine activities. Some of these are major employers in the region and their activities are an economic support. They are allowed toxic releases of chemicals into water, air, and soil, but must report them to the epa. Environmental Defense Fund’s Scorecard lists facilities in your county that are required to report any releases of the 650 hazardous chemicals on epa’s Toxics Release Inventory (tri) list.6 The edf Scorecard thoroughly explains both the merits and limitations of the data. It also ranks facilities as to their potential health impacts by taking into account the biological effects of the chemical releases.

 

 

In Dutchess County, for example, the IBM facility in Hopewell Junction, which develops, manufactures, and tests semiconductor products, vastly outpaces the other polluters in the county (five others are listed) for total tri releases, putting it in the 90th percentile of dirtiest facilities in the nation. Those releases went largely into water and as “off-site transfers.” The cancer risk score attributable to the specific tri chemicals released is only in the 20th percentile, but non-cancer risk in the 70th percentile.

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