Financial Assistance Offered To Endicott Homeowners

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a new program providing monetary payments to certain Endicott residents whose properties have been affected by groundwater pollution.

Under the program, the owners of approximately 480 properties in Endicott will be eligible to receive a one-time payment of $10,000 or more from the IBM Corp.

"This payment obviously won't solve the problem of chemical contamination in the village, but it represents one of several positive steps being undertaken to help people in the community," Spitzer said. "I am pleased that IBM is offering to provide homeowners with some financial relief."

Wayne Balta, IBM Vice President of Environmental Affairs, said: "IBM is offering a voluntary property benefit program which encourages investment in Endicott. This program has the potential to inject millions into the local economy and will provide substantial benefits to eligible property owners and the community at large."

Spitzer stressed that the program -- developed after several months of discussions between the Attorney General's office and company officials -- is voluntary. He urged residents to carefully review the terms of the program before deciding whether to participate.

Endicott Mayor Joan Pulse said: "This is what we had hoped for from IBM Corporation to go along with its ongoing remediation efforts. IBM has been a cooperative corporate citizen. In addition to IBM, I thank Attorney General Spitzer for all of his efforts to make this program available. If we keep working together, we can accomplish a great deal."

The key aspects of the program are as follows:

IBM will provide to property owners who have met the criteria for installation of a ventilation system a one-time payment of $10,000 or 8 percent of the full market value of their property, whichever amount is larger. This payment is not restricted in any way, allowing residents to use money they receive for any purpose.

However, if a property owner decides to accept the money, the property owner cannot make a future claim against IBM for property damage. Property owners are still free to pursue personal injury or other claims associated with the contamination.

The offer does not apply to owners of industrial facilities or any property used for an industrial purpose.

Eligible property owners will be notified shortly by letter from IBM. Residents have until November 30, 2004 to apply for the funds.

The new program is one of several steps underway to address chemical contamination in the Broome County village where IBM was founded. In July, the State Department of Environmental Conservation reached an agreement with the company to conduct a comprehensive investigation of pollution sources and to remediate contamination in the Village of Endicott.

Last year, IBM gave the village $2.1 million to install a special filter on a municipal drinking water well. Additionally, the company agreed to pay for ventilation systems in homes identified by state officials as having trace amounts of chemicals.

Leaks and spills associated with IBM's former operations in Endicott have resulted in contamination of groundwater at and in the vicinity of the 140-acre plant site. The primary contaminant is trichloroethylene, which the company used as a solvent to remove grease from machinery parts. Other local industries and businesses have also contributed to groundwater contamination in the village. In 2002, state officials discovered that contaminated groundwater had migrated through the soils and that vapors were seeping into homes through their basements.

Spitzer thanked IBM officials for working with his office to address the situation.

The program was negotiated by Assistant Attorney General David Munro, of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau and Dennis McCabe, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Attorney General's Binghamton office.

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