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Toxic contaminents found in backyards of 19 Salina homes

Tom Magnarelli
Ley Creek in Salina.

Toxic chemicals have been found in the yards of homes along Ley Creek in the town of Salina, just north of Syracuse. Cleanups have been ongoing in other areas of the creek, but it was not discovered in residents' backyards until testing was done earlier this year.

The injection molding and painting operations at a former General Motors manufacturing plant in Salina discharged polychlorinated biphenyl contaminants or PCBs into nearby Ley Creek until it closed in 1993. The creek would flood, sometimes into backyards, and PCBs were deposited into the soil affecting 19 homes along the creek, about 1.6 miles away from the plant.

Mark Nicotra, the Salina town supervisor, said dredging of the lake in years past may also have contributed to the contamination.

"They're going to have to remediate the backyards, remove the dirt, put new dirt back in," Nicotra said.

Nicotra said he has been in contact with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the RACER Trust, which was formed during General Motor's bankruptcy in 2009 to pay for environmental cleanups.

Residents in the affected area have been warned to not go digging into the soil on their property. The level of contaminants is low on the surface but increases one to two feet below. 

"It's in their backyard so difficult to completely avoid it but certainly being cautious about doing things back there," Nicotra said.

RACER is putting a cleanup plan together for this section, which they hope can begin in June and be completed by the end of the year. RACER has put aside $31 million for the overall Salina cleanup.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.