ITHACA, N.Y.—The City of Ithaca announced today that the Environmental Protection Agency is installing a containment barrier around the Gun Hill/Ithaca Falls area as the environmental clean-up there continues.

The barrier will be placed at the base of the cliff adjacent to Ithaca Falls, within the Fall Creek Natural Area, in order to control any further contamination from lead that is in the cliffside and the above hill. The barrier will be constructed of 1,000 pounds limestone rectangular blocks, plus a chain-link fence, though the dimensions of the fence are not detailed. The full plan is here from the EPA.

“While EPA has removed a large quantity of contaminated soil and debris from the site, it is evident that more remains,” the city’s statement said. “The barrier will control material that might be dislodged from the cliff face in the future. It will protect visitors to the Fall Creek Nature Area from exposure to contaminated soil. Work is scheduled to begin in May 2021.”

The clean-up has been an ongoing topic locally for years, with developers eyeing sites nearby for potential plans, though there’s been no information that directly connects those plans to this current EPA effort. The site became contaminated as a result of the former Ithaca Gun Factory, with lead from bullets becoming embedded in the hill between the factory and Ithaca Falls.

The EPA’s plan, as it stands now, is to contain the contamination although the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is now responsible for future “responsibilities related to the contaminated cliff face that adjoins to the Ithaca Gun Company facility to the Fall Creek Natural Area.”

“The containment barrier will limit the movement of lead and arsenic-contaminated rock and soil from the base of the cliff onto the adjacent pathway used by visitors to the Fall Creek Natural Area,” according to the EPA’s memo. “Before the barrier was built, lead and arsenic-contaminated material within the Fall Creek Natural Area will be excavated and transported off-site for disposal.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com