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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: IBM Corporation-TJ Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York

On this page:

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

Cleanup Status 

 In June 1989, the former laboratory piping system was completely replaced by a "state of the art" double walled piping system equipped with a leak detection system. Prior to its installation, soil contaminated with constituents that leaked from the old piping system was investigated and subsequently remediated. A total of 4,102 tons of contaminated soil was removed and transported off-site to a disposal facility. The top 12 inches of the entire excavated area was then covered with clean soil.

A bedrock groundwater "pump and treat" system which began in 1990 is responsible for containing and reducing in size the contaminant plumes both in the bedrock and soil groundwater. The latest annual groundwater monitoring report dated February 28, 2000 and covering the four quarters in 1999 reported mostly non-detects in both the soil and bedrock monitoring wells.

The groundwater quality at the site is being regularly assessed by using periodic groundwater sampling data collected from multiple groundwater monitoring wells located within and surrounding the contaminated groundwater plume and from selected surface water sampling locations. Each constituent that is monitored has a cleanup Standard of 5.0 ppb. This Standard must be achieved for three consecutive years after pumping is terminated before the remedy can be considered successful.

All contaminated groundwater is sent through a multi-step treatment process at the existing wastewater treatment plant. The treatment process is designed to effectively remove from the groundwater the organic hazardous constituents contributed by the leaking piping system to levels below the State's Groundwater Quality Protection Standards. After the water goes through the treatment process it is collected in a treated water storage tank to be used as needed on-site in IBM's cooling towers and/or discharged to the Ossining Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs.)

Site Description

IBM Corporation -TJ Watson Research Center is located in southern Yorktown near the boundary separating the Town of Yorktown from the Town of New Castle. The site occupies an area of approximately 217 acres and adjoins land uses are predominantly residential developments. A majority of the site is drained by No Name Creek, which flows across the site from southwest to northeast and is tributary to the New Croton Reservoir, located approximately one mile north of the site.

IBM Corporation - TJ Watson Research Center (IBM -TJWRC) is a scientific research facility dedicated to the advancement of the electronics industry and other basic sciences. These research activities involving wet chemical operations are carried out in Building 801. Building 801 is the main arc-shaped building at the site which houses their research laboratories, hazardous materials storage areas, offices and a cafeteria. There are also separate buildings on-site for water treatment, wastewater treatment, maintenance and administrative activities.

In 1988, IBM -TJWRC expanded its groundwater monitoring program to determine the effects of suspected releases from their former laboratory wastewater piping system. These investigations determined that releases of dilute laboratory wastewater containing volatile organic contaminants (VOCs) from the former piping system had contaminated the on-site groundwater and some soils surrounding the pipeline. 

Contaminants at this Facility


VOCs, primarily Acetone, were detected in the soil under the building as a result of leaks from the old piping system. The Acetone became a target contaminant to assess cleanup. Both the soil and bedrock groundwater became contaminated with these releases. Freon 113 and Trichloroethylene (TCE) were detected at the highest concentrations in the groundwater and became target contaminants used to assess cleanup.

Potential Threats from Contaminated Groundwater

There are no known direct pathways between the residual groundwater contamination and human receptors. However, the State considers all its groundwater to be a potential source of potable water and should be remediated to New York State Groundwater Quality Standards. The stream flowing through the property, No Name Creek, has not been impacted by the contaminated groundwater as demonstrated by the groundwater monitoring and sampling of the Creek.

Potential Threats from Contaminated Soil

Soil contaminated with volatile organic contaminants (VOCs) was cleanup to a residual Acetone level of 100 ppb. This level is considered protective for all human exposure pathways and it would result in the removal of all the other VOCs detected at lower levels during a removal action. Therefore, no threats to human receptors exist from any residual contaminant in the soil.

Potential Threats from Contaminated Air

Several factors suggest that indoor air is not a pathway of concern. First; soil gas studies conducted when groundwater contamination was at a maximum detected maximum concentrations of Freon 113 and Trichloroethylene (TCE) four feet under the building in the vicinity where releases were significant. However, all the gas concentrations detected were significantly lower than Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) exposure limits for workers. Second; the building sits on a concrete slab which serves as a barrier. And third; being the building houses laboratories that utilize volatile chemicals the indoor air is exchanged frequently to assure that the workers are adequately protected. This high air exchange rate would keep any VOC vapors that might find their way into the building from concentrating. 

Site Responsibility at this Facility

The New York State 6NYCRR Part 373 Hazardous Waste Management Permit was renewed February 2013. It addresses:

  • the storage and management of hazardous waste in containers;
  • the operation and maintenance of the final corrective measures for contaminated groundwater;
  • the monitoring and maintenance of the groundwater monitoring network used to assess the performance of the corrective measures.