MASSENA — Work is winding down to clean up the former General Motors Powertrain site in Massena.
Remediation work began after RACER (Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response) Trust was given the title to the property, as well as the responsibility for the cleanup activities ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The property was owned by the former General Motors Corp. before its 2009 bankruptcy. Remediation began with the demolition of the 890,000-square-foot facility that covered about 20 acres.
RACER representatives are working closely with the North Country Redevelopment Task Force, local elected officials, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, the EPA, state Department of Environmental Conservation and other stakeholders to identify potential future uses for the site that are consistent with the environmental cleanup being conducted at the site, and long-term stewardship.
“We have been in the community since 2011 through multiple administrations. The work that I have done as the cleanup manager is probably coming towards the end, which is good news for the community,” Cleanup Manager M. Brendan Mullen told the Massena Town Board.
He said Massena is one of RACER’s 89 locations in 14 states, with more than 60 sites requiring remediation.
“This one right here in Massena is the jewel in the crown as far as I’m concerned. This site here at Massena got 25% of our overall budget. That is a testament to how significant the commitment Massena received in the bankruptcy settlement. It is our only federal Superfund site. It’s not the only federal Superfund site in the area, but it does require a lot of focus, a lot of effort and a lot of commitment in the form of money into the remediation. We’ve been working year-on-year. This is our 12th year. We’ve been spending a lot of money,” Mr. Mullen said.
He said they received approximately $155 million to clean up the property, “far more than any other property in the portfolio. At this point, we’re now at a stage where all of the soil has been remediated on our property. The Superfund site itself extends a little bit past RACER property.”
Mr. Mullen said that, in general terms, they’ve removed more than 550,000 tons of toxic waste from the site.
“We’ve done the remediation in phases. At this point, the remediation is complete from the point of view of any soil. So, we’ve made it that much cleaner. Unfortunately, we’ve moved that elsewhere. We’ve made Indiana bigger, but we’ve made New York a little bit smaller, but a little bit cleaner,” he said.
In addition, Mr. Mullen said, “We’re doing a little bit of groundwater recovery and treatment. We have an obligation to do that recovery and treatment and discharge under all state permits. We’ll continue that obligation into the foreseeable future.”
He said, in doing the cleanup, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with the community, the federal Environmental Protection Agency that oversees the site, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.
“So, it’s collaboration across not just RACER, but all of these entities to get to this point,” Mr. Mullen said.
He said they’ve been fortunate to use local contractors for many of the jobs.
“So, our effort is to keep money in the community as we do our work,” he said. “We try and redevelop the site, get developers in here, get work and jobs back into the community so that we can pass the remediation case into redevelopment and replace what was lost through GM bankruptcy.”
Councilor Thomas C. Miller asked how close they were to being finished on the RACER property.
“We’re pretty much complete right now,” Mr. Mullen said. “We’re shovel-ready.” RACER Trust has actively been marketing the site both in the United States and Canada to find buyers for the property.
Once cleanup is officially complete, RACER Trust will work with the EPA to have the site removed from the EPA’s Superfund program.