After getting together behind closed doors for about three hours Thursday, a handful of north side residents and representatives of the state Department of Environmental Conservation agreed to meet again to discuss concerns about toxic chemicals dumped years ago at the former New York Air Brake site.
East Division Street resident James P. Barker said both sides provided information and asked and answered many questions about the contaminants at the site off Starbuck Avenue and about what was done to clean it up.
I feel comfortable that both sides learned a lot, said East Hoard Street resident William F. Wise III.
The three-hour meeting at the DEC offices in Watertown was closed to the public and the media.
Region 6 Director Judy Drabicki, project manager Peter S. Ouderkirk and Thomas Festa, who was involved in the sites remediation about five years ago, were among the DEC officials who met with the residents. Department of Health officials in Albany also participated through a conference call.
Mr. Ouderkirk said the next step is getting state health officials to attend the next meeting to let them talk with residents about their medical conditions and health concerns.
City and state officials and residents also agreed a public forum should be held on the issue, although several private meetings still may be scheduled before that happens.
With much of the conversation highly technical, Mr. Barker said, the group voiced concerns that DEC used old standards on the allowable amounts of trichloroethylene, or TCE, that could be present in nearby Kelsey Creek over the years.
DEC officials, Mr. Barker said, were surprised to hear the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses more stringent levels than the state. DEC was not aware of that discrepancy and intends to look into the issue, Mr. Ouderkirk said.
The group also expressed concerns about levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, found in the neighborhood over the years. TCE and PCBs are carcinogens, while TCE also can cause nerve disorders.
Residents also asked DEC officials for information on whether pollutants were removed from another nearby tributary, Oily Creek, which runs from an old Air Brake landfill and into their neighborhood, he said.
Mr. Ouderkirk said he assured the group the remediation was completed correctly on Oily Creek during the late 1990s.
In 2008, DEC found unacceptable levels of TCE an industrial solvent used at the Air Brake facility on Starbuck Avenue decades ago in four on-site buildings and under Mr. Wises home, which subsequently was equipped with an air-mitigation system.
In recent weeks, residents and former neighbors have told stories about family members suffering nerve disorders, cancers and birth defects. They said they believe TCE seeped into the ground and spread off site and into Kelsey Creek.
In 2008, the state Department of Health and DEC tested more than 50 structures, including four buildings on the Air Brake site, 44 houses, North and Starbuck elementary schools and a church for TCE vapor intrusions. About 1,200 parcels were in the testing area, which primarily extended north and west of the companys Starbuck Avenue campus.
Mr. Festa, now a geologist in the DECs Albany office, oversaw the soil vapor intrusion program five years ago, Mr. Ouderkirk said.
He went house-to-house taking samples for the soil vapor intrusion, he said.
In 1995, DEC dredged Kelsey Creek and removed contaminants and soil. Those were taken to the Purdy Avenue and industrial landfills, where they were sufficiently capped off, according to DECs website. The group wants DEC to conduct more tests.
City Manager Sharon A. Addison; Elliott B. Nelson, assistant to the city manager; Jefferson County Legislators Anthony J. Doldo and Jennie M. Adsit and Graham D. Wise, chief of staff for state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, also attended the meeting.
The meeting was prompted after Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham wrote a letter to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens asking DEC officials to meet with the residents.
It was very beneficial Mr. Festa was at the table, Ms. Addison said, noting he described what was done, when and why.