City to test soil near old tannery

JOHNSTOWN – The city will begin collecting soil samples next week on privately-owned land adjacent to the former Karg Brothers tannery on North Perry Street, looking to see if contaminants have spread from the site of the large mill that closed 20 years ago.

A consultant helping the city with remediating the former tannery site will draw five samples from surface soil at homes and businesses, then bore 5 feet down for deeper samples in five other locations, 2nd Ward Councilman Chris Foss told the city Common Council at Tuesday’s business meeting.

The state Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation requested the samples after the federal Environmental Protection Agency reviewed results of fall tests with health officials.

“Based on those results, they want to delve a little deeper,” city Engineer Chandra Cotter said. She said the city has access agreements with all of the landowners whose property is adjacent to Karg Brothers, including on North Perry Street and Crescendoe Road.

“There are some levels there DEC isn’t happy with,” Cotter said. “There is a whole slew of things: Chromium, lead – nothing good. It’s typical of any leather waste site and typical of this area.”

The city will pay for testing using funds left from a $185,000 state Brownfields grant, which can be used only for testing, reports and analysis, Cotter said. The city has spent about half of the grant funds.

If contaminants are found on private property, the city would ask the state Department to Environmental Conservation to allow the funds to be used for remediation, she said.

Karg Brothers closed in 1993, and the city took ownership of the property in 1997. It initially planned to redevelop the site for commercial or light industrial use, but the city’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan called for turning the site into the cornerstone of a new Center City Park, which has been stalled by a lack of funding and continued cleanup.

One large building remains from the original mill – a garage owned since 1999 by the Crossroads Incubator Corp, part of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth. The Greater Johnstown School District leases some of it for its Buildings and Grounds department, and until last year, the district stored its fleet of school buses there.