Plume problem remains under investigation

ENDICOTT, N.Y.—Tom Mehl is trying to sell his house, but finding a buyer has been tough for the simple reason that he lives in the “area of vapor contamination” created by plume that is emanating from a nearby IBM Corp. plant.

While IBM's public forums on the matter have helped, Mehl told WBNG of Johnson City, N.Y., that he still has questions about what will happen next in the ongoing investigation into the chemical contamination that stems from a 1979 spill.

At the time of this report, IBM, along with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), fielded questions on the contamination and outlined what IBM says it is responsible for.

IBM claims that test results show 40 percent of the contamination is from outside sources. Furthermore, it explained its placement and quick removal of the two carbon filters that were set in a residential neighborhood. The huge black tanks that were delivered in late October were removed after the Village Board ordered them taken away, saying neither it nor the residents had advanced warning. Testing will continue to validate contamination sources, which IBM says include a dry cleaning service, a printing company and a metal fabricator.

Although IBM is not taking full responsibility, the DEC revealed a records study in Endicott, Endwell and parts of Union, N.Y., that will determine the scope of future testing. Many residents are suffering from cancer, which may be due to exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE), a plume component and a chemical that is used to clean metal parts.

The Department of Health is asking residents for information on the health effects of the plume.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is calling on state officials to step up efforts in the IBM contamination mess. After meeting with Endicott residents, Clinton wrote a letter to Governor George Pataki and joined U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) in requesting that the state upgrade the spill to a Class 2 level, meaning it is not contained and poses a public threat. The spill is presently listed as a Class 4, which means contamination is contained but requires continued management.—MAD


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