Tannery cleanup planned

GLOVERSVILLE – The state Department of Environmental Conservation is recommending the cheaper of two options to clean up contamination at the former Pan American Tannery site on West Fulton Street.

However, grant money currently can’t be used for the entire cleanup project, so local officials will lobby state political leaders to allow the city to use the money.

Department of Public Works Director Kevin Jones said at a meeting Tuesday he is hopeful the city can begin removing the buildings at the site this spring.

After the site restoration project is completed, the property would be suitable for a business but not residences, officials said.

A state grant will pay for the $20,000 cost of completing a study of the property. This would leave $180,000 of grant money left over, but the grant stipulates the city cannot use that money for the actual site cleanup, which would cost $186,000.

City officials hope the state will allow the city to use the $180,000 for the cleanup.

“The money is there; it is now just getting the right people to transfer it from pot A to pot B so it can be used to fix the problem,” Jones said. “If we can at least make [the site] look presentable for the people living around there and people coming into the city, I will feel like we have done what we needed.”

Councilwomen Robin Wentworth and Ellen Anadio said at the meeting they would send letters to politicians to have the grant money transferred to be used for the actual cleanup.

The 4.8-acre commercial isn’t likely to be used for an industrial business.

“We tend to keep the industrial businesses with the industrial businesses and separate from a residential area,” Jones said.

The state began an environmental investigation in 2002 and began to remove buildings and contaminated containers in 2005.

The site is located on Mill Creek, formally known at West Mill Pond.

The tannery once was at full-scale operation with six tannery buildings. The business operated from 1912 to about the 1990s.

The investigation by the DEC revealed contaminants in surface soil, subsurface soil and groundwater, and in some instances at very high levels, DEC Environmental Engineer Alicia Thorne said.

According to the Proposed Remedial Action Plan, copper was the predominant contaminant found, and in some areas was found to be at 1,040 parts per million. Arsenic also was found in some areas of the site at levels as high as 750 ppm. Both are above the 50 ppm for normal property use and the 270 ppm considered to be OK for commercial use of a contaminated property.

Other contaminants found at the site include benzene, isopropylbenzene, antimony and manganese.

Jeff Marx, an environmental engineer from C.T. Male Associates, said the DEC already has completed some work. The work includes fencing-off the property, and removing four storage tanks, drums of petroleum, PCB-laden transformers and other tanning waste.

The DEC basically considered three options to address the contamination. The options were no action or covering the site with soil and full excavation.

According to the action plan, the soil cover system is the preferred option. It would cost about $186,000 to place a 1-foot layer of clean soil over the contaminated soil and is estimated to take two months to complete.

The other option, far more expensive, would be to excavate all of the contaminated soil, dispose of it in a secure location, and then replace it with clean soil. The process would take about three months and is estimated to cost $1.56 million.

Department of Health Engineer Ian Ushe said because people are not drinking the contaminated ground water, there are no concerns about water.

However, people who enter the site could come into contact with contaminants in the soil by walking on the site, digging or otherwise disturbing the soil. The area has been fenced-in to restrict public access.

The DEC will consider public comments as it finalizes the remedy for the site.

“I think we will be able to have commercial business there in the future,” Mayor Dayton King said. “We will probably be able to take care of the demolition ourselves, but the cleanup will have to be decided.”

Documents detailing the site’s investigation and plans for remedial action are available at City Hall and the Gloversville Public Library.

Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be reached by email at