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Walter Hang letter to NYSDEC regarding EPT N/SPDES permit

June 12, 2015

Via Electronic Transmission

Honorable Judith A. Enck
Region 2 Coordinator
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
90 Broadway
New York, NY 10007-1866

Honorable Joseph Martens
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, New York 12233-0001

Re: Proposed Revisions to Emerson Power Transmission N/SPDES permit NY 000 293, DEC ID #: 7-5007-00024/00050


It is my understanding that Emerson Power Transmission Corporation (EPT) has submitted an application for modification of its above-referenced wastewater discharge permit. I write very respectfully today to request that this modification request be denied for reasons that I will explain and document below.

Due to those concerns, I also request that your agencies require EPT to characterize its wastewaters on a comprehensive basis and to revise its permit to require treatment and strict limitations on all identified pollutants prior to discharge into the environment.

EPT's Permit Modification Request

EPT reportedly wrote the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on June 22, 2011:

"We recently eliminated the seasonal boiler blowdown that was discharged to Outfall #001. Therefore, the only discharges from the facility are stormwater and remediated groundwater to Outfall #001 and storm water to Outfall #003. Because the facility is closed, we are requesting to discontinue the requirement to monitor storm water discharges from Outfalls #001 and #003. We are requesting that future SPDES monitoring and reporting requirements be limited to groundwater discharged to Outfall #001."

Requested EPT Permit Modification Must be Rejected

With all respect, I believe that over the course of the last 30 years the nature of EPT wastewater discharges has been profoundly misunderstood and inadequately regulated by environmental authorities. I believe this important matter now warrants your attention and action given that the EPT site is included in the Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Registry with a Class Two designation: "Significant threat to the public health or environment - action required" as well as in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Information System.

Instead of granting EPT's request for eliminating monitoring and reporting requirements, I believe there is indisputable documentation that the firm's wastewaters require comprehensive characterization for the full spectrum of toxic chemicals present and additional treatment requirements and discharge limitations prior to discharge into the environment.

EPT Wastewater is Not Stormwater

Contrary to EPT's assertion referenced above, the firm is not releasing mere "stormwater" in addition to the treated groundwater extracted by a very limited remedial system that discharges into Outfall #001.

In fact, this wastewater has been associated with extraordinarily high-level toxic contamination originating with the infamous Fire Water Reservoir as well as numerous other areas of this heavily polluted factory site. Those well-documented contamination hazards still have not been remediated nearly 30 years after being discovered.

1987 Radian Report

EPT's site contamination and wastewater problems were first investigated and documented in a 1987 report by Radian Corporation, entitled: "Preliminary Environmental Assessment of the Fire Water Reservoir, Morse Industrial Corporation, Ithaca, NY:

"The reservoir was filled with water which drained from the plant property. The influent to the reservoir has always been through the paint shop side and comes from two sources. Inflow from the northeast consists of runoff from building floor drains, roof drains, and parking lots. Inflow from the southeast consists of runoff from the drive between the main building and the paint shop, plus non-contact cooling water.

Access to the reservoir is through three holes, one large hole in the floor of the paint shop, and two smaller holes through the pavement of the parking lot. Although these holes are covered by steel plates, they are by no means water tight and could allow for the entrance of liquids at either location."

"Oil was typically present as a layer on the water in the paint shop compartment of the reservoir."

"After finding significant levels of TCE [trichloroethylene, not in the original] in the oil from the reservoir, Morse requested that Radian sample the water and sludges in the reservoir and analyze them for volatile organics, particularly TCE."

"The paint shop and parking lot compartments are connected by an eight-inch pipe through the common wall. This pipe is located roughly six feet above the bottom of the reservoir in the center of the wall. The two compartments, therefore, have equal water levels above six feet. Water is discharged from a ten-inch pipe at the corner diagonally opposite the influent. This effluent is discharged into a wooden sluice that empties into a culvert at the top of Cayuga Street (Outfall 001)."

"A summary of the analytical results is given in Table 2-2. The highest concentrations in the water were 5,000 ppb [parts per billion, not in the original] 1,2-dichloroethylene, 1,400 ppb trichloroethylene, and 1,200 ppb vinyl chloride. In the sludge, the highest concentrations were 280,000 ppb 1,2-dichloroethylene, 310,000 ppb trichlorethylene, 17,000 ppb tetrachlrotethylene, and 23,000 ppb vinyl chloride."

"The reservoir walls and floors contain numerous cracks and joints that allow for the continued seepage of ground water into it."

"The reservoir was one obvious secondary source of volatile organics at the site but this does not eliminate the possibility of other secondary sources. The primary source(c) has not yet been identified. "

"The railroad ditch collects ground water discharging from the hillside and was found to be contaminated with chlorinated volatile organics at a location downhill from the reservoir."

"Two sediment samples from Six Mile Creek, upstream and one downstream from the Morse site, were found to contain elevated levels of methylene chloride."

"Only one out of four natural seeps sampled exhibited detectable levels of trichloroethylene and associated compounds. The water coming out of the seeps may contain higher concentrations of volatiles that were lost due to the slow rate of seepage and the methods of collection."


Further EPT Site Contamination Hazard Documentation

In the years since the original oil and solvent contamination problems were discovered at Morse Chain, extensive additional toxic pollution hazards have been documented, but the site has never been remediated on a comprehensive basis.

These concerns involve massive oil pollution problems that migrated from the facility into the adjoining residential neighborhood, across widespread areas of the factory site and into numerous tributaries with resulting problems that reportedly traveled more than one mile from the property boundary.

Those oil problems were associated with far more serious solvent contamination hazards.

Moreover, it is now clear that the problems at the site were well understood long before they were publicly disclosed, at least as early as 1972.

I earlier brought almost all of these documents to the attention of your two agencies:

EPT 001 and 003 Discharge Outfall Concerns

All of the aforementioned unremediated toxic concerns can contribute to the contamination hazards of EPT's improperly treated and inadequately regulated effluent discharges into Outfalls 001 and 003.

See map of EPT 001 and 003 Outfall locations:

Proposed Chainworks Project

In addition to the environmental hazards posed by the EPT site, Ithaca Mayor Myrick and a developer are working hard to redevelop the contaminated property for residential housing. You can read my comments about the shortcomings of that proposal.


I trust that you will find all these comments self-explanatory, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions that I might be able to answer. I am always open to your suggestions.

Thank you for your consideration and for any assistance you can render.

Very respectfully yours,

Walter Hang

cc: Honorable Cynthia Brock
Honorable Richard DePaolo
Honorable Barbara S. Lifton
Honorable Mayor Myrick
Honorable Members of the Ithaca Common Council
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Kenneth Deschere