Environmental Investigation And Cleanup - Elmira High School
Ongoing Cleanup at Elmira High School
Community Newsletter: Elmira High School - Former Sperry Remington Property Cleanup - June 2023 Update (PDF)
Interim Remedial Measures (IRM): Up to Date Construction, Monitoring, and Health and Safety Information (leaves DEC website)
Questions and Answers: Frequently Asked Questions - Former Sperry Remington Site - November 2020 (PDF)
PROJECT HOTLINE: Still have questions or concerns? Need to report an issue? Contact the Project Team
Visit the online repository to view the documents for this site.
New York State is committed to overseeing a careful and thorough cleanup of the Elmira High School (EHS) property. Our top priority is ensuring that students, faculty, and visitors are not coming in contact with any of the site's below-ground contamination. The potential ways that people could be exposed to subsurface soil, groundwater and soil vapor contamination have been appropriately addressed:
- Contaminated soil is below the ground's surface and covered by vegetated soil, wood chips, paving and building foundations.
- Groundwater is not used for drinking water or other purposes at the school.
- The effective operation of building's sub-slab depressurization systems (SSDS), as well as the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, ensure that contaminants beneath the building are not drawn into the school, where they could affect the indoor air quality.
Air quality at the school has been extensively tested and shown to be consistently below NYS Department of Health (DOH) air guideline values.
Boundary of the Former Sperry Remington-North Portion Site
In 2017, Unisys entered into an agreement with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) under the State's Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) to complete a comprehensive environmental investigation and cleanup at the Elmira High School (EHS) property. Additional investigation is being conducted to identify all areas of below-ground contamination that must be cleaned up, and PCB-contaminated soil is being removed ahead of or in conjunction with EHS capital improvement projects at the school. While exposure pathways are being managed, EHS capital improvement projects provide an opportunity to more easily access areas of contamination and permanently remove contaminated material. All cleanup and investigation is being conducted by Unisys with strict NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and DOH oversight.
Ongoing Interim Remedial Measures Activities:
Interim Remedial Measures (IRMs) are being planned and implemented at EHS under DEC oversight to remove soils impacted by PCBs and other site-related constituents as presented below (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Planned and Completed IRM Cleanup Activities
Unisys began IRM #5 Amendment 2 (IRM #5A2) in October 2021, to remove contaminated soils and former industrial sewers from the EHS athletic fields north of the football field (NAF). To date, an estimated 110,000 cubic yards of soil (approximately 205,000 tons) were excavated and disposed of off-site at approved facilities. Excavation activities and waste shipment were substantially completed in May 2023 to facilitate NAF restoration. Ongoing activities are addressing soil impacts along EHS property boundaries. Impacted groundwater or soil below the water table will be addressed in the final site remedy.
Safety measures are implemented for each IRM. Traffic controls, including flagmen and traffic control devices such as cones, signs, and barriers, are used to ensure safe access for students and school personnel to and from the EHS property. IRM-related truck traffic to and from the project site does not occur during scheduled student arrival and release times and is carefully coordinated with ECSD for other events.
DEC and DOH require a Community Air Monitoring Plan (CAMP) to measure airborne particulate matter. Dust concentrations are continuously monitored during remediation and construction activities. Airborne PCB vapors are monitored when remediation activities are occurring in soil with PCB concentrations known or suspected to be greater than 50 mg/kg. Dust control measures (e.g., watering) are implemented to reduce dust on temporary dirt roadways and open excavations. If air monitors detect dust above action levels, work is stopped until corrective measures are implemented to ensure public health and the environment are protected.
Trucks are covered to properly secure all material during transport. Trucks and equipment are decontaminated prior to leaving the site and truck traffic patterns have been designed to maintain safety on local roadways.
IRM #5 Amendment 2 (PDF) (10.8 MB) provided additional remedial construction details related to the removal of the former industrial sewer along the eastern property line and ground preparation for stadium related subsurface utilities.
Completed IRM Activities and NAF Restoration:
Table 1 details the excavation, disposal and reuse activities associated with IRM #1, through IRM #5A3. The Table also describes NAF Restoration activities completed under the Interim Site Management Plan (ISMP).
Table 1: IRM and NAF Restoration Data
Note: Excavation measurements are cubic yards and disposal is measured as tons. For this Site, the conversion is 1 cubic yard = 1.9 ton
IRM #5A2 Excavation and disposal numbers - through October 2022
The activities completed as part of IRM #4, IRM #4A, IRM #5/5A1/5A3, and #5A2 will be summarized in a Construction Completion Report (CCR). For impacted groundwater and soil below the water table, it is anticipated to be addressed in the final site remedy.
Unisys is conducting comprehensive investigations to define the nature and extent of the contamination below ground in soil and groundwater across the entire property and any areas where contamination has migrated to or been disposed at other properties. Between 2015 and 2021, Unisys completed soil sampling to depths of 16 feet below ground the approximate depth of groundwater across the majority of the EHS site. The remedial investigation activities have informed the previously completed and ongoing IRM actions. The remedial investigation is ongoing for the remainder of the site. In August 2020, initial soil sampling was conducted to determine the extent of potentially impacted soil off-site, east of the former visitor grandstand at the football field. In addition, an assessment of potential impacts from an on-site industrial storm sewer was completed and a soil investigation below the groundwater table began in early 2021. Currently, a groundwater investigation is occurring at and near the site to document groundwater conditions in the direction of groundwater flow.
Additional delineation and characterization of soil impacts is planned for east of the gymnasium, and areas requiring further evaluation to support future on-site cleanup plans. The most recent groundwater sampling will assess the groundwater concentrations extending east of the site toward the railroad tracks. Concentrations decrease along direction of groundwater flow. DEC and DOH completed extensive study of these plumes in 2007 and found no adverse risk to the public.
In December 2019, DEC in consultation with DOH, approved the Interim Site Management Plan (ISMP) (PDF, 6 MB, 134 Page) developed by Unisys for the EHS property. The ISMP monitors and maintains the engineering controls, including cover system barriers (e.g., concrete floors, pavement, mulch beds, clean, and vegetated soil) and sub-slab depressurization systems (SSDS). The existing and newly constructed cover system reduces the potential of exposure to below-ground contamination or remaining impacts. The ISMP includes measures to monitor and maintain the SSDS that is installed in portions of the EHS building. The SSDS is operating continuously and prevents potentially impacted vapors from entering the indoor area.
ISMP monitoring, including indoor/outdoor air sampling is completed annually and inspections are conducted quarterly. If deficiencies in these engineering controls are found, actions will be taken to quickly address these deficiencies. Monitoring, inspection, and indoor air sampling events have consistently shown the SSDS are preventing potentially impacted vapors from entering the EHS building.
DEC requires advanced notification of all construction and maintenance work below protective soil cover. This work must be planned and completed in accordance with the Excavation Work Plan portion of the ISMP to ensure the protection of public health and the environment. DEC has received appropriate notification of ECSD athletic complex and field restoration construction activities and has authorized work to proceed.
DEC and DOH will continue to keep the public informed as this work progresses and as cleanup plans are developed. To receive site information electronically by email from DEC, sign up for the DEC Delivers email listserv.
Properties Outside School
In addition to the cleanup efforts on the school property, DEC and DOH continue to oversee Unisys's ongoing investigation of potential off-site migration of contaminants in the surrounding community. Unisys is responsible for the thorough investigation and cleanup of all contaminants that have been released, disposed of or have migrated from the former industrial facility in all off-site areas.
Based on current and historical remedial investigation findings, there are no indications that contaminants are migrating or have been disposed immediately west, north and northeast of the EHS property.
The migration of contaminants southeast of the EHS in groundwater have been investigated and monitored by DEC from 1998 to 2007 and sampling data suggests they are of limited extent, breaking down and diminishing in concentration. No one is coming in contact with or drinking the groundwater as public water supply serves this area and is routinely monitored.
NYSDEC Project ID: 808043
A remedial investigation is underway to evaluate the nature and extent of contamination associated with a former oil skimmer, a drainage culvert, and a holding pond located at the northern end of property owned by Southern Tier Conference Center (STCC) which is located adjacent and south of EHS. The drainage culvert leads from the 0.28-acre Former Sperry Remington Site to Coldbrook Creek, and the remedial investigation is characterizing the vertical and horizontal extent of contaminated sediments in the culvert and in site soils, holding pond sediments, and groundwater. The plan is to complete the investigation and submit a Remedial Investigation Report to DEC and DOH by the end of 2024.
Unisys identified the downstream extent of impacted sediments in Coldbrook Creek and is investigating the extent of impacted soils along the creek banks and in the flood zone. Phase III of this investigation was implemented in September 2021, including collection of additional soil samples to further delineate constituents of concern at several previously sampled locations, and investigate potential constituents of concern at a remaining unsampled parcel. A summary of the Phase III sampling results was mailed to the property owners in June 2022.
Phase IV of the investigation was implemented in Fall 2022, which included collection of additional soil samples to further delineate constituents of concern at select previously sampled locations. A summary of the Phase IV sampling results was mailed to the property owners in March 2023.
Fish and Wildlife Impact Analysis sampling was completed in July and August 2020, which included collection and testing of sediment and fish tissue, and a benthic community survey. An assortment of edible fish was also collected for chemical analysis to evaluate contaminant impacts and assess potential human exposure pathways. Elevated levels of PCBs were found in fish tissue and therefore, DOH has issued the following advisory regarding consumption of fish taken from Coldbrook Creek:
Advice for Men Over 15 and Women over 50
Advice for Women under 50 and Children under 15
Additional information about this fish advisory is available at https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/outdoors/fish/health_advisories/
Please direct any questions regarding Coldbrook Creek (Site #808043) to:
Lisa A. Gorton, P.E.
625 Broadway, 12th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-7011
M: (518) 949-5091
NYSDEC Project ID: 808049
Unisys is required under the existing Order with DEC that was issued in July 2014 to complete a site characterization for the Former Scott Technologies (now STCC) site. Site characterization investigations have been conducted under DEC-approved work plans. In November 2021 and May 2022, the latest phase of the soil delineation was completed at the property. Results of the delineation indicated additional characterization of the extent of contaminants in soil and groundwater are required to fully define the nature and extent. Further delineation to determine the vertical and horizontal extent of the soil contamination and investigation of groundwater quality is planned for 2023 and early 2024 with an estimated submittal of the Site Characterization Report by the end of 2024.
A portion of the STCC site is being used for a material staging area (MSA) to support ongoing IRM actions on the EHS property. Materials stored include non-hazardous excavated soils, previously used imported fill, construction equipment, and office trailers.
Public Meetings and Information Sessions
A virtual public information session was held in December 2020. Slides and videos were presented demonstrating various aspects of the site history, investigation, cleanup, and public health protection efforts. Experts from NYSDEC, NYSDOH and Unisys were present to provide the opportunity for interested residents and community members to have specific questions answered. Additional public availability sessions will be held at later stages of the project as necessary and will be announced here.
Summary of Previous Work
Since beginning site characterization in July 2014 at the EHS, Unisys has collected more than 3,000 soil samples at various depths across the 34-acre property site, and analytical results have identified polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals as contaminants of concern in the subsurface soils. PCBs are the primary contaminant of concern in the subsurface soils of the proposed and completed IRMs.
PCBs are generally known to be stable in subsurface soil and do not easily migrate into groundwater. PCBs can migrate into soil vapor; however, no PCBs have been detected in the indoor air at EHS. Sub-Slab Depressurization Systems (SSDS) currently operate in the gymnasium, cafeteria, F-wing area, K-wing Science addition and the Music-wing of EHS. In addition, the building-wide heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system operates in positive pressure mode to further prevent vapor migration.
Interim Remedial Measures (IRM) soil cleanup activities at EHS began in 2017, Since then, approximately 70,000 tons of soil has been excavated and 45,000 tons of below ground hazardous and non-hazardous waste removed from the site. All hazardous and non-hazardous waste has been appropriately disposed of at off-site regulated landfills, and soils meeting standards were used to backfill excavations. A clean soil cover (two feet thick minimum) was installed over backfill and the surface was restored as turf, asphalt or concrete.
In 2017, in coordination with an EHS capital improvement project in the front parking area and tennis courts, Unisys implemented an Interim Remedial Measure (IRM #1) to remove contaminated soil from below-ground in the front parking and tennis court areas. An estimated 10,208 tons of soil was excavated and 1,350 tons of PCB hazardous waste and 2,580 tons of non-hazardous waste soil was taken off-site for disposal using cleaned and covered trucks traveling on main roads. The balance of excavated soil was reused as backfill below a two-foot-thick clean soil cover after sampling confirmed that it met standards. All waste materials removed from the site were properly disposed of at appropriate regulated facilities. The work area was restored with turf, asphalt, tennis courts and concrete sidewalks. Unisys also conducted an additional Short-Term Response Action (STRA) to remove shallow subsurface soils with elevated levels of PCBs above applicable standards on a portion of the football field and track infield.
In 2018, in coordination with another EHS capital improvement project, Unisys implemented IRM #2 to remove contaminated soil from below ground in the rear parking area. An estimated 41,608 tons of soil was excavated and approximately 12,951 tons of PCB hazardous waste and 16,507 tons of non-hazardous waste soil was taken off-site for disposal using cleaned and covered trucks traveling on main roads. The balance of excavated soil was reused as backfill below a two-foot-thick clean soil cover after sampling confirmed that it met standards. All waste materials removed from the site were properly disposed of at appropriate regulated facilities. The work area was restored with turf, asphalt and concrete sidewalks.
In 2019, Unisys implemented IRM #3 to remove contaminated soil from below ground on the northwest side of the EHS. An estimated 17,318 tons of soil was excavated and approximately 8,250 tons of PCB hazardous waste and 3,268 tons of non-hazardous waste soil was taken off-site for disposal using cleaned and covered trucks traveling on main roads. The balance of excavated soil was reused as backfill below a two-foot-thick clean soil cover after sampling confirmed that it met standards. All waste materials removed from the site were properly disposed of at appropriate regulated facilities. The work area was restored with turf and concrete sidewalks.
During Summer 2020, Unisys completed Interim Remedial Measure (IRM) #4, adjacent to the north and west side of the locker rooms at EHS. An estimated 6,500 cubic yards (approximately 12,300 tons) of soil were excavated and disposed of off-site at approved facilities or re-used as backfill where the soil meets cleanup standards.
In September 2020, Unisys began IRM #4 Amendment (IRM #4A), an expansion of IRM #4. IRM #4A removed below-ground contaminated soil located north of the area of IRM #4 and facilitated the transition between IRM #4 and IRM #5 work.
Unisys completed IRM #4A in April 2021. An estimated 9,962 cubic yards (approximately 18,900 tons) of soil were excavated and disposed of off-site at approved facilities or re-used as backfill where the soil meets cleanup standards. The restoration of the backfilled area for IRM #4A is ongoing in coordination with ECSD including the district's work on the new stadium complex.
In December 2020, Unisys began IRM #5, a continuation to the north from the IRM #4 area, which encompasses the track and football field. The remedial work utilizes much of the same construction infrastructure (e.g., materials storage area, haul road) and excavation to remove soils impacted by PCBs and metals. In October 2021 Unisys began IRM #5A2 removing contaminated soils and former industrial sewers from EHS NAF. An estimated 110,000 cubic yards of soil have been removed, excavated, and disposed off-site at approved facilities. Excavation activities were completed in May 2023. Restoration of NAF is continuing.
The approximately 34-acre property is owned by the Elmira City School District and is comprised of the EHS. On the school property are the school building and grounds, including parking lots, a multiple-use athletic track and field, baseball/soccer fields, tennis courts, volleyball courts, a basketball court, and a playground.
The EHS property, located at 777 South Main Street, straddles the commercial boundary between the City of Elmira and the Town of Southport, Chemung County. It is bounded by South Main Street to the west, the Southern Tier Commerce Center to the south, the Consolidated Rail Corp. property to the east, and vacant and commercial properties to the north. The site is zoned residential, and the surrounding parcels are zoned residential, commercial, or industrial. The nearest residential areas are immediately to the northwest of the site on Ogorman Street and on the west side of South Main Street, as well as to the east of the Consolidated Rail Corp. property.
The Elmira High School (formerly Southside High School) property located at 777 South Main Street, Elmira, has a long history of industrial and manufacturing use. Originally part of larger 83-acre parcel, the site history is as follows:
- 1887-1909: B.W. Payne & Sons produced high speed steam engines.
- 1909-1935: Morrow Manufacturing Co., produced drill chucks, machine parts, and a line of tools.
- 1936-1972: Remington Rand Corp. manufactured typewriter parts.
- 1974-1977: Westinghouse Electric Corporation utilized the property primarily for warehousing.
- 1977: The property was deeded to the Southern Tier Economic Growth Agency.
- 1977-1979: The Southside High School was constructed on the northern portion of the original parcel, opening in 1979.
Earlier Work at EHS
2003 - NYSDOH Health Consultation Report concluded that:
- Environmental conditions at Elmira High School, including indoor air quality and surface soils, pose no public health hazard.
- The public was not exposed to the impacted sub-surface soils.
- Direct contact with contaminated groundwater is not a concern.
Recommendations: Develop and Implement:
- A soils management plan to provide measures to minimize exposure to subsurface soils.
- An indoor air quality action plan to address the potential of impacted soil vapor migrating into the High School building.
2009 - Environmental Management Plan:
- Purpose: to organize environmental data, maintain engineering controls, and manage future site development to reduce potential exposures to contaminated soil, groundwater, and soil vapor.
- Components: Soil Management Plan, Indoor Air Quality Action Plan, Groundwater Management Plan, and an Operations, Monitoring and Maintenance Plan for Engineering Controls.
2010 - Mercury Manifested from Elmira High School:
- A mercury abatement project of the gymnasium floor was completed. Mercury abatement of a gymnasium floors is not unique to EHS. The historic use of mercury in gymnasium floors is a well-documented, national issue, unrelated to past industrial operations.
- In addition, during the restoration of the floor, a sub-slab depressurization system was installed to reduce the risk of soil vapor intrusion.
2014 - Order on Consent:
- Unisys entered Order on Consent to complete site characterization.
2014 - Soil Vapor Intrusion Study:
- Comprehensive soil vapor intrusion completed as part of the site characterization.
- Sub-slab Depressurization System was expanded to address the F-Wing of High School.
2014 to Present - Environmental Monitoring Plan Annual Certification:
- EHS Annual Certification that Environmental Controls such as the sub-slab depressurization system and covers are in place, maintained, and fully functional.
Interim Remedial Measures
Interim Remedial Measures are priority actions that mitigate the risk of exposure to environmental contaminants at EHS. "Interim remedial measures" are undertaken when any potential exposure scenario is noted.
Interim Remedial Measure No. 1 (IRM #1) Summer 2017:
- Tennis Courts and Grandstand Area: Subsurface PCB contaminated soils located under the tennis courts and south of the grandstand area of the site were excavated and disposed of properly.
- Football Field: Shallow soils with slightly elevated levels of PCBs from a portion of the track infield/Football field were excavated and disposed of properly. Clean soils were imported to make up the top six inches of soil cover as temporarily restoration until the full extent of subsurface soil remediation in this area is completed in the future. Continuing adherence to the Environmental Monitoring Plan ensures that protective site cover is maintained for the safety of those using the property.
Interim Remedial Measure No. 2 (IRM #2) Summer 2018:
- Rear Parking Lot and Bus Loop: Subsurface PCB contamination soils will be excavated and disposed of properly. Upon completion of the IRM, EHS completed capital improvement work in this area.
Interim Remedial Measure No. 3 (IRM #3) Summer 2019:
- Contaminated soil was removed from below-ground on the northwest side of the EHS and taken off-site for disposal. The area including the grassed area near the bleachers and a portion of the north parking lot was restored using clean fill.
Interim Remedial Measure No. 4/4A (IRM #4) Summer 2020:
- PCB-contaminated soil will be excavated north of and adjacent to the EHS and taken off-site for disposal.
Interim Remedial Measure No. 5/5A2/5A3 (IRM #5) Fall 2020 - Present:
- Contaminated soil excavated at the football field complex (FFC) and NAF and taken off-site for disposal.
Interim Remedial Measure No. 6 (IRM #6) TBD:
- Contaminated soil will be excavated in an area east of and adjacent to the EHS and taken off-site for disposal.
Remedial Investigation Work Plan: July 2019 Approval (PDF) - October 2019 Update (PDF)
Unisys will continue its investigation and delineation of contaminants of concern at the site under the oversight of DEC and DOH. As new data becomes available, it will be provided to DEC and DOH.
If data indicates a potential risk for exposure, short-term response actions may be necessary and undertaken to mitigate risk while long term remedial strategies are developed. DEC will continue to keep the public informed throughout the investigation and cleanup of the site.
Document Access Information
Fact sheets, work plans, and other documents can be viewed in the online document repository.
Additional information and documents about the site are available in hard copy for public review at the following locations*:
Elmira Steele Memorial Library
101 East Church Street
Elmira, NY 14901
Region 8 Office
6274 East Avon-Lima Road
Avon, NY 14414
Please contact Jill Bishop for an appointment:
Project Management Contact Information
For project-related questions, contact the NYSDEC Project Manager:
Division of Environmental Remediation
6274 E. Avon-Lima Rd
Avon, NY 14414
For health-related questions, please contact the NYSDOH Project Manager:
Bureau of Environmental Exposure Investigation
Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Rm#1787
Albany, NY 12237
Related Program Sites
Voluntary Cleanup Program site V00103 (South Main Street, Elmira):
The site, currently occupied by the Southern Tier Commerce Center, was historically the southern portion of the Remington Rand facility used for manufacturing operations. As a result of a voluntary agreement between the former site owner and NYSDEC, a series of cleanup activities including above-ground tank removals and contaminated soil excavations were conducted on the site during the period 1999 to 2004.
The main site features include old industrial buildings, a pond, large parking area, and a former recreation area. The southern end of the site is wooded. Portions of the site buildings are currently used for warehousing and manufacturing of pedestrian bridges. Groundwater is not impacted by the site. The Former Sperry Remington Site # 808043 is a 0.28 acre portion of this site where a combined storm and industrial sewer system discharged off-site. The Former Scott Technologies Site makes up the remainder of this former Voluntary Cleanup Site where additional areas of potential concern are being characterized and the extent of recently found soil contamination is being delineated.
Former Sperry Remington site 808043 (South Main Street, Elmira):
The site is a 0.28 acre portion of the former Remington Rand property where a historically combined storm and industrial sewer discharged offsite. Site-related contaminants appear to have been released to an off-site tributary/marsh that empties into Coldbrook Creek. NYSDEC signed an Order on Consent with UNISYS Corp to conduct a Remedial Investigation, which is ongoing.