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The Times
  • DEC to take another look at Middleville Tannery site for contamination

  • One woman’s fight has helped prompt another look at possible contamination at the former Middleville Tannery dump site, state Department of Environmental Conservation officials say.

    By early December, DEC officials will take soil and water samples at the property off Military Road to determine whether it meets the state’s definition of a hazardous waste site, DEC spokesman Stephen Litwhiler said.

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  • One woman’s fight has helped prompt another look at possible contamination at the former Middleville Tannery dump site, state Department of Environmental Conservation officials say.
    By early December, DEC officials will take soil and water samples at the property off Military Road to determine whether it meets the state’s definition of a hazardous waste site, DEC spokesman Stephen Litwhiler said.
    The Middleville Tannery reportedly dumped waste in the 1950s and 1960s at the site off Military Road, according to a DEC report. In 1989, the DEC studied the land and found soil, stream and stream sediments in the area were contaminated with chromium.
    The Environmental Protection Agency then did further testing in 2005, and EPA Press Officer John Martin said it was determined there was no further remedial action needed.
    But Kimberly Labombard, of Norway, started investigating the site earlier this year after talking with neighbors and friends who had been diagnosed with cancer or knew people who died from cancer.
    At age 37, Labombard in 2003 was diagnosed with breast cancer.
    Her Newport-Grey Road home is about two miles from the site.
    “I’m hoping that they will clean it up,” she said.
    During her research, Labombard said she came across a 2010 state health assessment on the tannery’s dump site and decided to investigate further through the DEC.
    Some of the material she acquired shocked her.
    “In their own notes, it said it was migrating, and it had the possibility to migrate on other properties,” she said. “I lived up her all my life and I never knew that was up here.”
    In 2010, the state Department of Health issued its own statement noting average chromium levels were more than 400 times higher than the unrestricted health-based level of 11 milligrams per kilogram for hexavalent chromium.
    Trivalent and hexavalent chromium typically are used for chrome plating, the manufacture of dyes and pigments, leather and wood preservation, and treatment of cooling tower water, according to the EPA’s website.
    The EPA doesn’t consider trivalent chromium a hazardous waste, and typically it’s used in the leather tanning industry. But hexavalent chromium has been classified as a known carcinogen.
    While reports on the cleanup noted the chromium was either hexavalent or trivalent, DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said no further testing was done to determine which one it was.
    “That is one reason the sampling had to be done again,” she said in an email.
    In the 2010 statement, the health department concluded “there is no evidence that people are currently being exposed to the on-site contamination. However, exposure to chromium, mercury and cadmium could increase the risk for adverse health effects if the use of the site changes in the future.”
    Page 2 of 2 - That happened when a hunting cabin was discovered on the site in 2011, Litwhiler said.
    According to emails among EPA, DEC and state health officials, a letter to the new property owner was sent out and concerns were raised about whether the health department’s assessment would change.
    With the planned testing in the near future, state Department of Health spokesman Peter Constantakes said they’ll be working with the DEC and the property owner to alert them to the potential exposure.
    “The chances of exposure based on where it is may still be low, but you will definitely want to talk to the person using it,” he said. “Make sure they’re aware of it. It’s something that has kind of changed a little bit.”
    Town of Norway Supervisor Judy Gokey said she was not notified of any concerns or testing done at the site.
    “I, myself, wasn’t even aware of it being there,” she said. “We have not been approached, and as far as we know we have no concern.”

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