Photo courtesy of Ithacating

ITHACA, N.Y. — State officials believe several homes in the Fall Creek neighborhood have been impacted by pollution stemming from the former Ithaca Gun Factory site, and they will install a “mitigation system” to clean at least one home, according to Ithaca Common Council member Cynthia Brock.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will monitor five additional homes in the Ithaca neighborhood to protect against dangerous levels of Trichloroethene or TCE, a volatile organic compounds which can pollute indoor air quality, because of tests done on these homes, Brock said.

Thirty homes in the area have been tested so far — about half of the homes which are eligible for testing.  In other words, about 20 percent of the homes that have been tested by state officials are suspected to be impacted by the pollutants, Brock said Wednesday night at City Hall.

Photo courtesy of Ithacating

Residential testing is now in its third year, Brock said. The homes where contamination is found will be getting “mitigation systems” paid for by the NYDEC, according to Brock.

“I think participating in the testing is worth it, especially for families with children,” she said. “It’s very important that this resource be taken advantage of.”

This summer New York State improved its standard for safe levels of the chemical “Trichloroethene” or TCE — lowering the acceptable amount from 5 parts per billion to 2 parts per billion in indoor air, according to Brock.

Additional homes may qualify for “mitigation systems” as a result of the new standard, Brock said.

See related: Cornell expert weighs in on Ithaca Falls lead controversy

Brock urged Ithaca families to contact Gary Priscott at the New York State DEC or 607 775-2545 if they are concerned that their homes might be affected and would like to be included in the testing.

“Please ask your friends, ask your neighbors, to participate,” she said.

Background on the site: A quick primer

Contamination in the neighborhood dates to the now-defunct Ithaca Gun Factory, a former munitions manufacturer that moved its operations to King Ferry in 1989.

The factory was condemned in 2006 and the only vestige at the site is a smokestack and a small concrete building once used for power generation at the factory.

In 2000, the city of Ithaca took control of the “Ithaca Falls Natural Area.” It transformed the site near the former factory into a natural park, welcoming visitors and tourists and teachers taking school trips with students.

Testing, however, revealed that pollution remained. The site was given “Superfund” designation by the Environmental Protection Agency, and federal contractors spent three years and $4.8 million on a cleanup effort.

They removed over 2,000 tons of lead-contaminated soil and over 4,000 tons of other material. But environmental advocates have continued to find that pollutants from the original site were carried elsewhere — most recently at the base of the Ithaca Falls gorge.

The EPA is currently completing on a new round of contamination removal at the gorge site.

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Jeff Stein

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