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An ongoing state Superfund cleanup of two hazardous waste areas surrounding an abandoned North Olean chrome-plating operation is entering a new phase.

Contractors will begin removing soil next week at VanDerHorst Plant 1 and aim to complete removal of chromium-contaminated sediments from Olean Creek within three weeks.

The project involves the cleanup of two former metal-plating plants used during World War II for plating cannon barrels and later by the oil industry.

The plants have been closed for several years after owners went bankrupt. Soil and ground water near the former plant sites on Johnson Street and Pennsylvania Avenue are contaminated with heavy metals.

The cleanup of Plant 2 has been completed. It included capping and burial of demolished buildings, soils and sediments at the plant site.

In addition, sediment removal at Two Mile Creek near Plant 2 was finished last week, with materials sent to CID Landfill in Chaffee for disposal.

Plant 1 cleanup begins next week, with the excavation of 14,000 tons of soil, considered non-hazardous yet contaminated, and 1,600 tons of hazardous soil.

An air monitoring system to protect nearby residents will sample dust raised during the cleanup, and an alarm will sound if dust levels exceed safe standards.

Later, the site will be restored to a "green space" with grass and trees planted.

During the plant's operation chemicals were stored or dumped in underground vats and deep pits, some of which were shown to be leaking, according to Gregory Sutton, project manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"The ground water underneath the plant has a high concentration of chromium," he said.

Though both plants are downstream from the city's water supply, the cleanup plan includes long-term ground water monitoring as its final phase.

Work on removing sediments from Olean Creek was delayed by runoff from recent rains, which slowed installation of a portable dam on the creek.

But diversion of part of the creek's flow away from the contaminated sediments has begun.

Only the western half of a 900-foot-long curve in the creek, where most of Plant 1's storm sewer discharges settled, will be cleaned with a vacuum by Allstate Power Vac of Linden, N.J.

Creek sediments show the highest chromium levels, so stream banks are not part of the cleanup, according to Marty Doster, the DEC's regional remediation engineer.

The excavated sediments from the creek will then be tested. Sutton said he does not expect these levels to exceed state hazardous materials guidelines. Non-hazardous materials will be buried at CID landfill in Chaffee, while hazardous materials will be transported to a hazardous waste landfill in Pennsylvania, he said.

In addition to elevated levels of chromium, tests have shown arsenic and lead present in the vicinity of both VanDerHorst plants, with other materials at lower levels of concentration and not of concern to authorities.

Plans also call for storm sewer cleanup and widening stream banks, which have flooded and resettled over the years due to the natural water course, for future flood control.

Once the project is completed, Sutton said, the DEC will try to recover cleanup costs from R.J. Scott, a corporation located in Texas believed to be linked to the bankrupt VanDerHorst company, which abandoned the industrial site when contamination was discovered.

"We will seek a responsible party," Sutton said. "We try to negotiate usually, but the company went bankrupt so we can't talk to them."

This phase of the state Superfund cleanup cost about $1.4 million, he said, with about $1.1 million spent on the work at Plant 1.

About $1 million was spent on the initial investigation of each plant site, in addition to Environmental Protection Agency costs of about $1 million for removal of drums and hazardous materials and chemicals from vats.

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