Wastes from processing chrome-tanned hides is leaching elevated levels of chromium, arsenic, zinc, and some organic compounds into Cattaraugus Creek alongside the site; in 1997 New York State Electric and Gas, which owns a portion of the landfill site, constructed a retaining wall along the creek bank; meanwhile, EPA searches for potentially responsible parties:
On September 30, 1996, EPA determined an alternate water supply is required for residents along the seven-mile plume threatening the Allegheny River; by October, 1997, water wells were fitted with "air stripper" treatment devices, including a blower and ultraviolet light to remove bacteria, at 85 of the 175 residential and commercial properties in the valley; in March 2001, the county health department said some homewners have disconnected the systems to avoid high electricity costs; the EPA therefore considered replacing the home systems with carbon filter units that are cheaper to operate, but the local health department favors extending public water supply lines to the homes. On August 23, 2006, in light of further investigation, EPA proposed to extract TCE from a much larger area. For an overview:
Three city wells and 50 residential wells on 1.5 square miles in east Olean are contaminated with TCE and other volatile organic contaminants (VOCs), and these hazardous substances leaks into the Allegheny River; 32 residential wells were fitted with carbon treatment devices by 1985; some contaminated soils at the source were removed by 1990; on September 30, 1996, EPA determined ground water should be pumped and treated, two of the city wells could be used with air strippers installed to remove TCE; over 5,400 pounds of TCE have been removed from 8.9 billion gals. of ground water and treatment continues; clean up of contaminated soils at four properties is in progress:
100 acres on the west bank of the Genesee River is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals; in 1983 ten drums were removed from the river and the river was diverted away from the landfill; in 1985 the village water intake was relocated upstream from the landfill; in 1991 the river was further channeled to prevent erosion of the landfill, which was partially excavated, consolidated and capped in 1994; groundwater treatment to remove contaminants began in 1995 and continues today; seepage of contaminants into the river continues at two points but was sheduled for work to stop the seepage in 1999; ARCO conducts much of the remediation work under consent orders lodged by EPA:
Airborne emissions of radioactive contaminants not addressed by Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) controls is regulated under EPA's National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) program; NESHAP also regulates Department of Energy (DOE) sites; therefore West Valley is regulated by NESHAP:
However, the West Valley site as a whole, including DOE's West Valley Demonstration Project and the NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) site adjacent to it, are regulated by the terms of an NRC license; this license is proposed to be terminated, which would "decommission" the site's NRC jurisdiction; NRC must set post-decommissioning exposure standards for radioactivity and non-radioactive contaminants; for more on the decommissioning process click here. For basic background, click here.
Finally, DOE will soon decommission its portion of the site, the Demonstration Project; a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) is available, but there is much controversy over what should be included in a final EIS, for example whether nuclear wastes buried within the boundaries of the Demonstration Project but never actively managed by DOE (which tok over the Project in 1982) should be removed. The draft EIS is available by clicking here.
Because DOE, NRC, and NYSERDA have overlapping (and confusing) jurisdiction over the West Valley site, EPA's Superfund jurisdiction is on hold:
The following sites have been listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the National Priority List (NPL), a group of the most dangerously contaminated sites in the U.S. for which federal funds (the Superfund) may be authorized to finance cleanup, containment and other protective measures.
These are federal Superfund sites; state superfund sites (such as the VanDerHorst chromium contamination in Olean) are managed by NYSDEC. For more on state hazardous sites click the grey button to the right.