Ithaca, N.Y. — Developers of a controversial housing complex in Ithaca learned in 2012 that there were toxic contaminants at the site.

About a year later, the developers published an “environmental assessment” (EA) about the project, known as the Stone Quarry Apartments.

The report didn’t mention the toxins, according to the federal government. Ithaca and its developers didn’t disclose the site’s environmental hazards even as the city sought federal money for the project.

That chain of events comes from a statement provided to The Ithaca Voice by a spokesperson for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Voice requested comment about HUD’s role last week.

The Stone Quarry Apartment complex.

City officials have repeatedly said that they did not believe the contamination amounted to a serious environmental hazard. They have said that they believed they weren’t required to submit a cleanup plan for review based on conversations with the state.  (The source of the confusion remains unclear.)

But the federal government says the city should include the toxins in its environmental documentation.

“We have received concerns about the comprehensiveness of the EA and the seriousness of the contamination from both public officials and local residents,” said Adam Glantz, of HUD, in the statement.

“Given these concerns, we have advised the City to revise the EA and include a thorough review of the contamination and a plan for its eradication.”

The news marks yet another unforeseen turn in the topsy-turvy fight over the Stone Quarry Apartments, which would add about 35 housing units to Ithaca’s Spencer Road.

The project has been met with fierce opposition from residents of the area, who have listed inadequate infrastructure, neighborhood aesthetics and zoning flaws as among their concerns in objecting the development. Mayor Svante Myrick has supported the project.

Ithaca’s planning board was set to vote on the project when last-minute concerns surfaced about the state’s role in approving the toxic contaminants.

The city said that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation had signed off on the development’s cleanup plan. Mayor Myrick and the Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service were then forced to back off that statement when the DEC said the review of the spill site was, in fact, still open.

The matter appeared to be resolved when the state said that the city developers’ clean-up plan had been resolved.

That is, until Tuesday, when the federal government told The Voice that Ithaca has been asked to revise its environmental assessment and write a new review of both the contamination and its cleanup plan.

The federal government is also asking for another opportunity for the public to give its input.

“We also have advised the City to publish the revised Findings and conduct a new public comment period that allows all interested parties to again express any issues they may have with the construction and/or proposed clean-up of the site,” Glantz’s statement said.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.