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NY, Chemical leak draws town interest
Three large blue disposal containers have been brought to the Mohawk Finishing plant on Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam to help with a chemical leak cleanup.
By GARY LINDSLEY
Recorder News Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM - Members of the town council Wednesday night questioned why town officials were never notified about a chemical leak at Mohawk Finishing Products Inc. on Route 30.
Town officials said they knew something was amiss earlier this month when they discovered large blue tanks had been placed on the company's property. Although they thought the leak had occurred this month, it actually was discovered the first week in April, according to state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Rick Georgeson.
"I want to know why someone from DEC, EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] and Mohawk Finishing didn't tell us about the problem," Councilman Richard Furman said. "I think they should be mandated to tell us. I know the chemicals along Route 30 are highly flammable. There may be no danger at all, but they should have contacted us."
Georgeson said Thursday that a Mohawk Finishing employee knew something wasn't quite right when he noticed there was some type of substance leaving a sheen on a nearby creek.
A sample was taken from the creek and it was discovered acetone had been leaking into the company's storm water collection system and was being discharged via a 4-inch drainage pipe into the creek, he said.
Since the discovery, the pipe flow has been directed into a lined basin. From the basin, the acetone and water is pumped into the blue tanks, according to Georgeson.
Groundwater on the company's property has been sampled for possible contamination. However, Georgeson said the results haven't come back yet. He expects EnCon will receive the results in July.
He also said adjoining properties have not been tested for groundwater contamination. Further testing, he said, won't be conducted until the sample results come back.
When asked why town officials weren't notified about the acetone leakage, Georgeson said there was no immediate health threat.
He said the acetone leaking into the storm water collection system wasn't coming from Mohawk Finishing's chemical tank farm. However, he said the leak could have been caused by overfilling the tanks.
The groundwater and acetone collected in the blue tanks will remain on site, according to Georgeson, until it's decided what will be done with it. He said it could be taken to a wastewater treatment facility or it could be treated on site by pumping air into the tanks.
Aerating the combined acetone and stormwater, he said, would speed up the creation of bacteria which, in turn, would break down the chemical.
"We are going to make sure everything is cleaned out when they pull out in the fall," Georgeson said, referring to the closing of Mohawk Finishing, which is a division of RPM Inc. Earlier this year, RPM officials announced the Amsterdam facility was closing down. Layoffs began in April and are to continue through February.
Georgeson said he doesn't know whether the chemical tanks will be removed or sealed before Mohawk Finishing shuts down for good.
Francisco Stidt, Mohawk Finishing's vice president of operations, couldn't be reached for comment.
According to EPA officials based in New York City, EPA didn't report the leakage to town officials because they weren't investigating the incident. They said the situation was being taken care of by EnCon.
RPM's Charles Brush, who is the company's vice president of Environmental Regulatory Affairs, said he doesn't know why town officials weren't notified, but he said state and federal officials were notified immediately.
Steps were taken to prevent any additional damage, according to Brush.
Georgeson said this morning that there has been no decision as of yet as to whether Mohawk Finishing will face a fine.
-- Doris (email@example.com), June 24, 2000