EPA Examines Homes Near Facet Enterprises in Elmira, N.Y., for Contamination

Jan. 14, 2010
Investigations involve concerns of TCE from contaminated groundwater

Concerns that harmful vapors from contamination in groundwater below homes near the Facet Enterprises Superfund site in Elmira, N.Y., have prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct another round of investigations of nearby homes this week. EPA has already tested under the foundations of more than 100 homes for trichloroethylene (TCE), a commonly used industrial solvent and probable human carcinogen. TCE can produce emissions that rise through the soil and potentially affect indoor air quality, a phenomena known as vapor intrusion.

After sampling 103 homes, EPA found elevated levels in some and has installed mitigation systems in 27 of them. The agency will test under the foundations of 18 additional homes, and will do indoor sampling of nine more in this latest round of sampling.

“Long-term exposure to these vapors can have serious health implications and I strongly recommend that people allow EPA to conduct sampling and, if necessary, install systems if we find elevated levels,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “The good news is that the systems are relatively simple to install and they are extremely effective in venting noxious vapors so that residents are no longer impacted.”

Historically, Facet Enterprises manufactured various products like bicycle parts, automobile engine components and small arms for the military. Various types of waste were disposed of at the site, including cyanide salts, heavy metal sludge, spent solvents and various oils. EPA cleaned up the site by excavating contaminated soil and sediment and treating contaminated groundwater. In recent years, the problem of vapor intrusion has become better understood and EPA, along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, determined that it was likely that vapors from the TCE contamination might have reached the basements of some homes or buildings in the vicinity of Facet Enterprises. Vapors from groundwater and soil can move through the soil and seep through cracks in basements, foundations, sewer lines and other openings. Vapor intrusion is a concern because vapors can build up to a point at which the health of residents or workers in those buildings could be at risk.

The designated area for sampling spans west to east from Robinwood Avenue to Prescott Avenue, and north to south from West 18th Street to West 12th and East 9th Street. The agency is asking residents in these areas to give EPA’s experts access so that they can conduct sampling, a process that involves drilling a small hole in a basement floor or building slab and inserting a sampling device into the hole to obtain a sample of any soil gases present. If the results of this sampling indicate the need for further testing, EPA will return to conduct further indoor air sampling. Upon completion of all sampling activities, EPA will patch up the floor.

Source: U.S. EPA