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Lifton urges New Market pipeline hearing in Ithaca


The former CNG Transmission Station on Ellis Hollow Creek Road, now owned by Dominion. The station has been the site of a petroleum spill of unknown scope, according to new data.
(Photo: NICK REYNOLDS / Staff Photo)

State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and an Ithaca environmental activist are calling on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to hold a hearing in Ithaca regarding the proposed Dominion New Market Pipeline expansion.

Last week, the DEC agreed to extend the comment public period from Aug. 5 to Sept. 12 on the air quality discharge permit.

That decision came within days of Walter Hang, of Toxics Targeting Inc., of Ithaca, revealing a series of unremediated petroleum spills dating to the 1990s along the proposed pipeline’s route — including two in the Town of Dryden.

Hang and Lifton, D-Ithaca, want the public comment period to be extended on the water quality certification portion of the permit as well.

Dominion already has approval for its water quality certification for a large-scale pipeline upgrade, according to a Notice of Complete Application issued by the DEC, but the matter is still not finalized, pending review by the Army Corps of Engineers, Hang said.

The New Market Pipeline’s route will utilize the route of a former CNG Transmission pipeline purchased by Dominion and involve the construction of two compression stations to be built and upgrades to another, adding 33,000 horsepower of compression power.

Public hearings may be held in the communities where those three sites — in the towns of Horseheads, Brookman Corners and Sheds — are located, though it is unclear where the hearings will be held. No dates have been announced.

The hearings would be limited to addressing air discharge permit concerns, rather than issues of water quality, which Hang said could derail the project.

In Lifton’s letter, she urged a hearing be held in Ithaca — as the project includes the Borger Compressor Station on Ellis Hollow Creek Road, just outside the Town of Ithaca — and that the comments include water quality as well as air discharge.

Hang said previous spills along the route could prompt the rejection of the proposal, based on its noncompliance with the Clean Water Act. Though investigations on most were closed, at least one spill of an unknown quantity of material in Frankfort was open as late as July 29 after 16 years of not meeting cleanup standards, despite the state investigator’s comments saying contamination on the site still existed.

According to the DEC, historic contamination of the site was discovered by laboratory analysis during voluntary site assessment and not a recent “spill” when it was reported in 2000, after which nearly 2,700 tons of soil was excavated and disposed of.

Though some contamination remained, little more could be done, wrote DEC Media Relations Officer Kevin Frazier in an email to The Ithaca Journal, and the site was put in the inactive file. After seeing media coverage suggesting the site wasn't properly cleaned, DEC Senior Spill Responder Mark Tibbe reviewed the case and determined the spill could be closed.

In a statement, Dominion Transmission said it has no outstanding site remediation or cleanup projects in New York state, as highlighted on the DEC’s publicly available yet heavily redacted Spill Incidents Database Search website. The company said it notifies the DEC within the required time frames and then evaluates and cleans up spills; only after that can the DEC administratively close the spill.

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