EPA to Start Cleanup of Mercury Refining Superfund Site

Operations at the site ran from 1956 to 1998.

September 13, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to begin the cleanup of contaminated soil and sediment by the end of September at the Mercury Refining Superfund site in Guilderland, N.Y. The facility was a mercury reclamation facility.

Past waste disposal activities at the location contaminated soil and storm water that drained off the site and into an unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek with mercury. EPA will begin excavating contaminated soil and removing it from the site this September.

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 the activities, mercury-contaminated soil on site and mercury-contaminated stormwater drained off the site into an unnamed tributary to the Patroon Creek. Mercury reclamation activities ended at the site in 1998. The recovery of some precious metals that do not contain mercury continues at the site.

The site was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1983. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation oversaw various cleanup actions at the site until EPA assumed the lead for the cleanup in 1999.

During the cleanup, about 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and sediment will be excavated and properly disposed of off-site. During the first phase of the cleanup, contaminated soil at the surface will be excavated and taken to a disposal facility. All excavated areas will be filled with clean soil and re-planted with vegetation. The work is estimated to take about three months to complete. Efforts will be made to minimize site-related traffic during the work and health and safety procedures, including air monitoring around the work zone and site perimeter, will be in place to protect the surrounding community.

The work this fall will include the removal of contaminated sediment from a tributary to Patroon Creek. After water is removed from the excavated creek sediment, the sediment will be disposed of at a landfill.

The second phase of the cleanup is expected to begin in spring 2014. Deeper contaminated soil and ground water will be treated using a technology that locks the mercury in a mixture of Portland cement and another agent, preventing it from moving into the surrounding soil and ground water. The EPA expects all cleanup work will be completed by fall 2014. The current owner, 26 Railroad Ave, Inc., will be responsible for land use restrictions at the site to ensure that the treated soil and ground water are not disturbed and that no drinking water wells are installed.

The cleanup of the Mercury Refining Superfund site is being conducted and paid for by the parties responsible for the contamination, with oversight by the EPA. The companies are Gillette Co., KeySpan Gas East Corp., Energizer Battery Manufacturing Inc., Union Carbide Corp. and Spectrum Brands. In addition, 19 federal agencies and 42 additional entities also responsible for the contamination were required to make payments into an escrow account to fund the cleanup work at the site.

EPA has also entered into settlements with 315 additional entities that sent mercury-containing material to the site. These settlements provided for the payment of funds to reimburse EPA for costs it incurred at the site. The value of the cleanup work to be performed is estimated at $9.3 million.

For more information about the site, please visit http://epa.gov/Region2/superfund/npl/mercuryrefining/.