Old Army dump capped, at last

The Enterprise — Anne Hayden Harwood

A decade in the making: Chuck Reilly, left, and Ted Ausfeld, survey the site of a former Army depot landfill, which has been turned into a vast green space. Ausfeld and Reilly, Guilderland residents and co-chairs of the Restoration Advisory Board, pushed for remediation of the site’s contaminated soil for more than 10 years before action was taken.

The Enterprise — Anne Hayden Harwood

Landfill cap and cover complete: Cutting the “ribbon” — actually a piece of construction tape — at the old Army depot landfill site, are, from left, Bridget Callahan, from the state’s Department of Health, John Swartwout, from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, David Ahl, from the Galesi Group, Gregory Goepfert, from the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Ron Groves, from the Albany County Department of Health, and Ted Ausfeld and Chuck Reilly, co-chairs of the Restoration Advisory Board. On Monday, the group toured the site, which has been capped, covered, and turned into green space.

GUILDERLAND — The Army Corps of Engineers wrapped up work on a $3.3 million cap and cover project of an old Army landfill this week.

The full extent of the project was discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday of this week, as were three other areas of the former Schenectady Army Depot.

The land, in Guilderland Center, now owned by the Northeastern Industrial Park, was set up as a depot in 1941 to serve as a storage center for the military during World War II. The Army, typical of the time, diverted the Black Creek into two halves, and sent waste into the creek and buried it on site. The Black Creek feeds the Watervliet Reservoir, Guilderland’s major source of drinking water. Some of the debris left by the Army is hazardous.

The Army classified nine areas of concern in the old local depot. Two of them — AOC 1 and AOC 7 — at the landfill, located south of Route 146 and approximately one-quarter mile southeast of Guilderland Center, required remedial action, due to levels of volatile organic compounds, in water, slightly above safety standards.

The Army Corps had been testing water from monitoring wells in the area for more than a decade, and finally received the funding for the cap-and-cover project through a grant from the Formerly Used Defense Site Program.

The cap, which was installed in August, consists of several layers, including a sub-base, a gas vent, drainage layers, a two-foot rubberized barrier, and several inches of soil. The cap is to prevent water, from precipitation, from soaking into the contaminated soil and into a groundwater plume.

Several feet of soil were placed on the remaining acres in the area, to minimize animal and human contact with the potentially contaminated soil; the land was graded to provide proper drainage.

Sensors were used to make sure that any vibration coming from trains traveling through the industrial park would not be strong enough to shift the cap.

Three monitoring wells were also installed to be used for long-term groundwater monitoring.

 “We will be tied to that site for at least the next five years — it’s in our contract,” said Gregory Goepfert, the project manager for the Corps of Engineers. “We usually stay involved with monitoring our sites for 30 or more years.”

The next steps include submitting environmental easement, sampling, monitoring, site management, and maintenance plans.

The environmental easement, said Goepfert, will ensure that the industrial park — or any future property owners — will be prohibited from developing the parcel.

Ted Ausfeld, a long-time member of the Restoration Advisory Board, said he was very pleased with the work done at the former landfill. It was a project he had been pushing for over a decade.

AOCs 6, 9, and 3

Also at the meeting on Tuesday, Goepfert proposed taking no further action on two other AOCs — 6 and 9.

AOC 6 was a wastewater treatment plant, and, at the meeting, Goepfert stated that no evidence of fill material and no signs of waste sources were found that would warrant further investigation.

AOC 9, also called the Building 60 area, housed an oil and water separator, with a storm-sewer pipeline leading to the Black Creek. The separator and pipe were removed in 1998, and no risks to human health or the environment have been associated with the site since the removal, Goepfert said. 

A feasibility study to examine previous site sampling and monitoring data, and conduct additional sampling and monitoring, is underway at AOC 3, to address low levels of volatile organic compounds in the groundwater there.

AOC 3, close to Guilderland High School, was a former burn pit, and already received $900,000 worth of material removal in 2002, and $700,000 of cleanup in 2005. The high school uses municipal water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning in the buildings. The wells are used only for watering athletic fields.

The levels of the VOCs in the groundwater there are below the safety standards, but could still be addressed, said Goepfert. The irrigation water was tested at the Guilderland High School in 2010 and 2011, and deemed to be safe.

The $292,740 feasibility study is slated to be complete by the end of 2013.

After the Army Corps of Engineers issues decision documents on AOCs 1, 7, 6, and 9, AOC 3 will be the last area open for remediation.

Closed AOCs

The Army Corps has identified and taken action on four other areas of concern at the local former depot, and reports these findings:

  • AOC 2: A former bivouac and post commander’s landfill, property later sold to Joan Burns, which has already received $1.2 million in cleanup, and requires no further action;
  • AOC 4: A construction and demolition landfill, which was not active when the Army depot was in the area, and there is no evidence of contamination;
  • AOC 5: The only part of the depot that was recently operated by the government and was used to store materials for national defense. It is now inactive and closed; and
  • AOC 8: The Black Creek, which showed some evidence of impacts downstream, but the level of contamination in the soil would be acceptable for use in a residential yard, according to state standards, and no action is necessary.

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