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Post date: December 27 1999

State Secures $9 Million For Toxic Clean-up

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John P. Cahill have secured $8.9 million from the GATX Corporation to help clean up toxic contamination at steel plants in Albany and Chautauqua counties.

“Decades of industrial activity at these two sites has resulted in widespread contamination,” Spitzer said. “This settlement allows a comprehensive cleanup program to move forward, while helping to preserve hundreds of local jobs.”

Another prior owner of the plants, Allegheny Ludlum Corporation, has already contributed $2.8 million towards the remedial efforts. Other entities, including two that are currently operating portions of the plants, will be contributing $4 million under separate settlements negotiated by DEC with assistance from the Attorney General’s office.

“Under Governor George Pataki’s leadership, New York State is doing more than ever to clean up our air, land and water,” Commissioner Cahill said. “This case represents the culmination of complex negotiations that will result in significant environmental benefits and avoid clean up costs being borne by New York’s taxpayers.”

The affected facilities, in Watervliet, Albany County and Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, produce steel rods, bars and wires -- and toxic byproducts, including heavy metals, acids, solvents and PCBs. These industrial byproducts have contaminated the soil and groundwater at the plants. Portions of the two plants are classified as Class 2 hazardous waste disposal sites on the state Superfund list, which means they present a significant threat to the environment and require extensive cleanup.

The State’s complaint alleged that Chicago-based GATX, which was the corporate parent of the company that owned the two plants during the 1980s, shares liability for cleanup under federal and state environmental laws. GATX operated the plants through a subsidiary known as AL Tech Specialty Steel Corporation, which filed bankruptcy December 31, 1997.

DEC and the Attorney General’s office negotiated with GATX and reached a proposed agreement that was filed today in federal District Court in Albany. Under terms of the proposed settlement, GATX will pay $8.9 million to support clean up work at the two sites.

The Watervliet plant, located on Spring Street, includes a 30-acre landfill, numerous pockets of contamination and two waste acid pits. The site is polluted with PCB-contaminated sludge, baghouse dust from smokestack filters, petroleum, corrosive spent acids, chromium-contaminated sludge and sediment and other sludge material. Some pollutants entered the Kromma Kill, a stream that flows to the Hudson River. Groundwater at the Watervliet plant is contaminated.

The Dunkirk plant, located on Willowbrook Avenue, Lucas Avenue and Brigham Road, is contaminated with chromium, lead, chlorinated solvents and PCBs. Groundwater at the site exceeds state standards for metals and chlorinated solvents. PCBs have also been found in a pond at the site.

Both plants have undergone a series of ownership changes in recent years. Part of the Watervliet plant is currently operated by ALTX, Inc., and the Dunkirk plant is currently owned by Empire Specialty Steels, a newly created company owned by Atlas Steels, Inc. and the United Steel Workers Union. In the coming years, the two steel plants are expected to employ up to 500 people.

Copies of the proposed settlement are available from: Dept. of Environmental Conservation, (attn. Elissa Armater), 50 Wolf Road, Albany, N.Y. 12233. Public comments on the matter should be directed to: Dept. Of Environmental Conservation, (attn. Deborah Christian), 50 Wolf Road, Albany, N.Y. 12233.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Joseph Koczaja and David Munro. DEC staff who worked on the case include Deborah Christian, David Keehn, Annette Sansone, Steven Sanford, Scott Menrath and Alicia Barraza.