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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Mercury Refining Company Incorporated in Colonie, New York

On this page:

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

Cleanup Status 

Remedial investigation and remediation at this facility currently are under the authority of the EPA Superfund program

Please refer to the factsheet cleanup status prepared for this facility, under the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).

Site Description

The facility is located at 26 Railroad Avenue, north of Interstate 90 and south of Central Avenue on the border of the towns of Colonie and Guilderland in Albany County, New York. The site encompasses approximately 0.5 acres on a 2.8 acre parcel. MERECO began operations in 1955. These operations included:

  • receiving hazardous waste from off-site;
  • storing this waste on-site;
  • reclaiming silver and other precious metals;
  • reclaiming metallic mercury from off-specification metallic mercury, mercury batteries and other mercury-bearing wastes.

The mercury was reclaimed using retort (condensation) furnaces at the facility. This facility was a commercial hazardous waste facility because hazardous waste was received from off-site for on-site storage. However, in 1998, MERECO discontinued reclaiming mercury, but continued reclaiming precious metals at the facility. The precious metal reclamation process continues at the facility, and is exempt from Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulation.

In 1998, MERECO's permitted hazardous waste storage building was leased to Mercury Waste Solutions - New York, Inc. (MWS), which became a co-permittee at this site. However, in the year 2003, MWS surrendered its lease of the permitted hazardous waste storage building, and ceased hazardous waste operations. 

Contaminants at this Facility

Groundwater, sediments and soil are contaminated with mercury. Mercury contamination is the subject of the current Superfund response action. The soils were also contaminated with PCBs, although the PCB contaminated soil has been excavated and moved off-site. EPA's investigation of the site determined that the groundwater contamination does not move off site, so it is unlikely that people would be directly exposed to the contamination. Also, there are currently no known domestic uses of groundwater within the area.

Site Responsibility at this Facility

The permit issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) under 6 NYCRR Part 373 on December 31, 1996 was set to expire on December 31, 2001. However, this permit continued in effect until after the hazardous waste operations ceased, because the permit renewal application was submitted by the facility to NYSDEC in a timely fashion. On September 30, 2003, the permit was terminated by NYSDEC, at the permittee's request, because the facility no longer managed hazardous wastes. MERECO continues to reclaim precious metals at a portion of the facility, but these operations are not under the jurisdiction of EPA's hazardous waste permitting program.

In September 1983, the Site was placed on the National Priorities List. At that time, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) was the lead Agency for overseeing actions related to investigation and remediation of the site under its hazardous waste program.

A hazardous waste permit was issued to the facility by the NYSDEC, under 6 NYCRR Part 373, on December 31, 1996. A permit also was issued by EPA in September 1997, under the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of RCRA, which authorized the storage of toxicity characteristic wastes (a subset of hazardous wastes), and set out conditions for waste minimization, land disposal restrictions, organic air emissions requirements, and other RCRA requirements.

The New York State's 6 NYCRR Part 373 permit authorized the storage of hazardous wastes that are solely regulated by NYSDEC, and imposed general operating conditions upon the facility and corrective action requirements for solid waste management units (SWMUs). The corrective action module of the 6 NYCRR Part 373 permit identified 11 SWMUs and seven areas of concern that required investigation. On May 8, 1998, NYSDEC signed a consent order for corrective action with MERECO and Mercury Waste Solutions. Under the consent order, MERECO would manage the investigation and any required cleanup.

However, due to the slow pace of work under the Consent Order, NYSDEC later requested that the project be transferred to the EPA Superfund program via a letter dated November 17, 1999. Remedial investigation and remediation at this facility currently are under the authority of the EPA Superfund program.