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Dan Hust | Democrat

The closed Cortese Landfill in Narrowsburg sits just a few hundred feet from the Delaware River and is continuously monitored for contaminants that still lurk underneath the soil.

EPA plans revised cleanup of Narrowsburg Superfund site

By Dan Hust
NARROWSBURG — August 27, 2010 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is opting for what they hope will be a 15-year solution to a local Superfund site, rather than one that would take an estimated century-and-a-half.
On Monday, EPA officials conducted a Q&A at the Tusten Town Hall in Narrowsburg on the Cortese Landfill, a former toxic waste dump along the Delaware River.
The session was led in part by the EPA’s Mark Granger, who has participated in the federally-mandated cleanup effort for the past two decades.
He recalled the 1994 public meeting where the EPA first proposed a plan of action on a landfill that in the 1970s had accepted paint thinners, solvents, dyes and oil, among other industrial wastes.
“They were taking chemicals from everybody,” said Granger. “It was not illegal at the time. It was ill-advised, perhaps.”
Located next to Narrowsburg’s sewage treatment plant and the Norfolk-Southern railroad tracks, the 5.28-acre landfill was closed in 1981, and the EPA undertook remediation planning in the mid-1980s.
By the late 1990s, more than 5,000 drums of hazardous sludge and contaminated soil had been removed and the landfill was securely capped, leaving only the groundwater to be addressed.
But Granger said the original cleanup remedy – to extract and treat the contaminated groundwater – proved to be the more expensive and time-consuming solution.
For one, the needed space for equipment wasn’t available, as the landfill sits in the river gorge. Then, in the 2000s, an ongoing groundwater investigation revealed that the water table beneath the landfill had a plume of contaminants 1,300 feet wide.
While those studies did not indicate significant dangers to neighboring homes (and the Town of Tusten requires new buildings in the vicinity to use the public water supply instead of drilling wells), the discovery of a larger area of contamination meant the EPA’s original remedy wouldn’t take 14 years to be effective, as first estimated, but 150 years.
So a new remedy was drawn up and presented to the public on Monday. It would employ a technique known as air sparging to separate the contaminants from the water, turning them into vapors that can be extracted from the soil. Those vapors would then be cleansed with carbon and vented to the atmosphere.
In response to public concerns about noise, Granger said the cleansing equipment would be housed in a building.
This solution would cost about $8.1 million rather than the original’s $11.7 million – all of it funded through the 28 involved government agencies and the businesses with ties to the landfill.
The Town of Tusten, said Granger, does bear some liability, but that has been and will be satisfied through in-kind services (i.e., mowing and basic site maintenance) rather than direct financial support.
Officially, the new plan has yet to be approved, as Monday’s public hearing was designed to elicit local comments to aid in decision-making.
EPA officials said they hope to make a determination by the end of September, after which construction would take about a year.
Even if not chosen in September, the original plan is not out of the running. Indeed, if this new solution does not work, it will serve as the backup plan.
More detailed information can be found online at
Granger himself welcomes calls at 212-637-3351, and the comment period remains open until September 12.

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