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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: IBM Corporation in Endicott, New York

On this page:

  • Cleanup Status
  • Site Description
  • Contaminants at this Facility
  • Site Responsibility

Cleanup Status 

Though IBM has accepted responsibility for much of the solvent contamination in Endicott, they have correctly pointed out that other industries that have existed in Endicott during the 20th century may have contributed to the groundwater contamination. To determine what other industries may have contaminated the aquifer besides IBM, DEC has undertaken a large comprehensive study of the area, calling it the Endicott Area Wide Study.

The Endicott Area Wide Study aims to further define the extent of soil gas contamination and groundwater contaminated in the upper aquifer west of Jefferson Avenue and east of Arthur Avenue in Endicott. The study is also investigating other areas to the north, west and east of the IBM solvent plume.

Field work for the Area Wide Study has included additional indoor air sampling during the heating season, collecting and analyzing soil gas samples from temporary and permanent soil gas probes, collecting groundwater samples for analysis, collecting and analyzing soil samples, and extensive review of records and county databases to determine how properties were used. IBM has done similar work in the Endicott area, installing hundreds of groundwater monitoring wells, soil gas sampling probes, and sampling the indoor air of hundreds of homes.

Significant progress has been made in reducing contaminant mass (> 50 %) in the off-site groundwater plume by installing additional recovery wells. Records of Decision (RODs) are projected to be completed for the off-site areas in the next three (3) years.

On-site, IBM has installed additional recovery wells and done additional investigative work to better define the nature and extent of contamination, with additional investigations planned. These include alternative technologies (chem. Ox, thermal etc.) to potentially enhance the existing groundwater remedies in place.

Site Description

The Village of Endicott (population 13,500) is situated within the Susquehanna River valley in upstate New York.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were used as solvents in manufacturing operations at the 140-acre industrial facility located in Endicott and Union, New York and formerly owned by IBM. Groundwater beneath the site has been found to be contaminated by these compounds, and has migrated off the site. The contaminated groundwater has migrated underneath buildings, with solvent vapors affecting indoor air quality.

In February 2004, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) reclassified the IBM Endicott site to a class 2 State Superfund site. The reclassification occurred as a result of new information regarding groundwater contamination and soil vapor intrusion into structures in the area over the groundwater plume. A class 2 site is one where hazardous waste constitutes a significant threat to the public health or environment.

Contaminants at this Facility

 In 1979, IBM Endicott reported a spill of 4,100 gallons of the solvent TCA (1,1,1-trichloroethane, also known as methyl chloroform), a commonly-used volatile organic compound (VOC). A comprehensive hydrogeologic report subsequently prepared by IBM indicated a larger than expected plume containing industrial solvents TCE, or trichloroethene; tetrachloroethene (also known as PCE or perc); DCA, or dichloroethane; DCE, or dichloroethene; methylene chloride; vinyl chloride, and freon 113; since then, benzene, toluene and xylene have also been found in the groundwater).

The primary contaminants are 1,1,1-TCA, TCE (trichloroethene), PCE and their breakdown products. The degree of contamination is highest in the vicinity of the manufacturing complex along the railroad between Watson Boulevard and North Street and diminishes with distance from the IBM plant site. Groundwater flow transports the contamination to off-site areas southwest of the plant, with lower levels extending as far as the Susquehanna River.

Based on a growing understanding of contaminant vapor mitigation, in 2002 New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) required IBM to investigate the potential for contaminant vapors to migrate from groundwater through the soil into buildings above. The results of the investigation indicate that vapor migration has resulted in detectable levels of contaminants in indoor air in structures, including off-site locations in the Village of Endicott and Town of Union. TCE is the primary contaminant of concern with respect to indoor air.

Site Responsibility at this Facility

In 2004, a New York State Part 373 Corrective Action Permit was terminated. The same year, the New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) and IBM entered into a formal consent order that requires IBM to investigate and remediate contamination in the Village of Endicott and Town of Union.

The Consent Order requires IBM to conduct a supplemental remedial investigation and focused feasibility study program for seven operable units that will identify and evaluate previously unknown or insufficiently evaluated potential sources of pollution at and in the vicinity of the site, and develop and implement appropriate cleanup measures.

The NYSDEC is the lead environmental agency in overseeing investigations/remediation at the site, with the EPA providing some oversight.