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Ithaca's Falls Creek Gorge to get lead cleanup

Samuel Whitehead
WSKG News File Photo
Ithaca Falls.

The Falls Creek Gorge in Ithaca will get attention from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency due to lead at the base of the gorge. The agency announced the cleanup last week.

Overlooking the gorge is the former site of the Ithaca Gun Factory. The company made guns there for about 100 years, ending in 1986. The EPA cleaned up parts of that site in the early 2000s.

The agency’s announcement deals with lead further down the gorge. The EPA said it will remove contamination from a section at the bottom of the gorge, near the Ithaca Falls.

“We will remove the contaminated soil and we will test the area surrounding it until we get non-detects,” said Michael Basile, EPA spokesman. “When we get non-detects that means it’s removed, it’s gone, period.”

Gone, period sounds good, but Nels Bohn with the city of Ithaca says that’s hard to do. The city has worked on parts of the factory site for years.

“That would be wonderful if they can get to zero,” he said. “Our cleanup efforts [for] the remainder of the site have [been] 400 parts per million of lead which is the soil cleanup objective standard established by the state for restricted residential and active recreation use,” said Bohn.

Bohn says it’s possible that elevated levels of lead at the bottom of the gorge are connected to the demolition of the former gun factory. But he says it’s hard to determine the cause.

The EPA begins its work on Tuesday. It’s expected to last between four to eight weeks. Daytime access to the gorge will be restricted during the project.

Basile says the EPA will remove about 200 cubic yards of material, far less than the 6,000 tons removed a dozen years ago. He says workers and visitors will be safe throughout the cleanup, which will cost $400,000.