You are here

For Immediate Release: 5/18/21
For More Information, contact Walter Hang
607 592 2414 (c)

EPA Praised For Undertaking a Third Clean Up of Massive Lead Contamination in the Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail Area

EPA Remediation Called an Exercise in Futility Due to NYS Failure to Clean Up Tons of Lead Pollution on the Face Cliff Above the Gorge Trail

Request Reiterated for Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun Sites to be Cleaned Up on a Comprehensive Basis Through Inclusion in the Federal Superfund

Lead Contamination Threat to Drinking Water Drawn From Cayuga Lake Identified Due to On-Going Flooding of Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail Area

Statement of Walter Hang

Member of the Ithaca Falls/Ithaca Gun Clean Up Citizens Advisory Committee

Regarding the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's Proposed Remediation

of Extraordinarily High Levels of Lead Contamination in the Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail Area.

"It has now been nearly 21 years since I first brought to public attention extraordinarily high levels of lead contamination that I identified at Ithaca Falls and Ithaca Gun during the summer of 2000. This toxic pollution exposed hundreds of thousands of visitors to this incomparable scenic natural area to lead that has never been cleaned up and was recently documented up to 69,800 parts per million (PPM) compared to the soil clean up requirement of 400 PPM.

I am grateful that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has returned to Ithaca to conduct a third removal of toxic pollution from the Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail Area. I am also thankful that my request will finally be fulfilled to build a formidable physical barrier to keep members of the public out of the massively polluted area along the bottom of Gorge's South Cliff Face. Needles to say, this should have been done when contamination in that area was first documented circa 2016, and I submitted my request to authorities.

Unfortunately, there can be no dispute that EPA's proposed remediation of soil contamination along the Gorge Trail and the base of the South Cliff Face is an exercise in futility because the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has failed to remove hundreds of tons of contaminated debris that are migrating down the Cliff Face from the Upper Island Area that the agency never comprehensively remediated. As a result, the Gorge Trail Area directly below the South Cliff Face is re-polluted every time EPA cleans it up.

Even worst, DEC recently proposed to allow massive toxic pollution at the Ithaca Gun Site located above Ithaca Falls and the Gorge Trail Area to remain in-place. This will pose an on-going pollution hazard to the Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail located below and to Fall Creek, a major tributary to Cayuga Lake, the source of drinking water for more than 40,000 local residents.

I reiterate my request that EPA include the Ithaca Falls and Ithaca Gun sites in the Federal Superfund toxic site clean up program so that all these well-documented pollution hazards will be cleaned up once and for all from top to bottom on a comprehensive basis in strict compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements. With all respect, this could have been achieved long ago if the request I submitted circa 2000 had received a favorable reply.

A comprehensive clean up of the Ithaca Falls and Ithaca Gun sites makes more sense than ever due to massive flooding that recently scoured the Ithaca Falls Gorge Trail area and undoubtedly transported lead-contaminated soils into Fall Creek and ultimately Cayuga Lake.

Finally, I would like to convey my personal gratitude to Don Graham, Jack Harmon, Joe Rotola, Judith Encke, Phil Sweeney and all the other EPA staff who have worked so diligently over more than 20 years to safeguard Ithacans from pollution hazards posed by Ithaca Falls, Ithaca Gun, Fall Creek and Cayuga Lake. I want you all to know that I and many other local residents appreciate your public service very much. Thank you one and all.