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Remediation of former GM site remains on track, unaffected by government shutdown


MASSENA - As the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Perras Environmental continue work on what EPA Project Manager Anne E. Kelly called the largest remediation project in the nation, Ms. Kelly said the project is on track and was not impacted by the recent government shutdown.

“We were considered exempt from the shutdown,” Ms. Kelley said. “There was absolutely no change to me other than I didn’t get paid during that time.”

Due to the “essential nature” of the remediation project at the site of Massena’s former GM plant, Ms. Kelly said she was one of only two project managers not furloughed during that time.

St. Lawrence County Legislator Jason A. Clark, who chaired this week’s meeting, said he was worried about losing the on-site lab, which would have really slowed things down.

“I was too,” Ms. Kelly said.

She also said that he project has been aided by he weather this summer, which was a sharp contrast to this year’s spring months.

“It’s been perfect conditions for the excavation,” she said. “We had a tough spring, but we’ve made up for that time.”

The success of the project so far, Ms. Kelly said, has been thanks in large part to Perras Environmental.

That’s a point not lost on St. Lawrence County Legislator and Task Force Chairman Anthony J. “Tony” Arquiett.

“It is with no surprise to me personally, that now well into the third phase of remediation, Perras Environmental have demonstrated their ability to get the job done in a safe, professional, and timely manner,” he said.

“The contractor has continued to perform really well,” Ms. Kelly said. “They’re almost digging it up faster than they can get rid of it.”

Once the contaminated soil is dug up, Ms. Kelly said it packed into large canisters, loaded on trains and shipped off-site.

“This excavations has been very challenging, because it’s really mucky and disgusting,” she said, adding they’ve also encountered a few surprises along the way, such as the discovery of an oven and even a large concrete vault that were buried on the property.

Ms. Kelly also again mentioned the assistance provided by wood pellets from Curran Renewable Energy, noting that to date nearly 1,100 tons of pellets have been used.

During a previous meeting, Ms. Kelly explained that the pellets help to absorb the sludge, creating solid brick-like blocks that are much easier to move. She also said the excavation stage of the project is nearing its completion.

“We hope to be done with excavating by mid-November,” she said, adding the hauling of waste from the site will likely continue until February.

“It’s going as well as it could possibly go,” Ms. Kelly said.

Mr. Arquiett agreed, disputing Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray’s claims that the task force had been “spinning its wheels” for the past two years.

“Contrary to Supervisor Gray’s reference to our task force spinning its wheels, our activities have been in direct relationship to the remedial process at the former General Motors site,” he said. “We’ve worked hard on behalf of all the affected communities to keep both the workforce as well as the actual contracting here locally. We will now be focusing more toward collectively creating a vision for the future of the property and will again be soliciting involvement from all stakeholders.”

Mr. Arquiett also said that while it may appear the task force or RACER (Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response) Trust have not done a lot of work, that is definitely not the case.

“The marketing strategies most often present a need for privacy as the task force is aware, which makes identifying our progress and involvement publicly very difficult. RACER Trust has been very good to work with and lend an open ear to our ideas and concerns,” he said.

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