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Black River PCBs
Jefferson County, NY

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Involvement Coordinator

Michael Basile (716) 551-4410
basile.michael@epa.gov

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The Black River PCBs site includes sections of the river that run through the villages of Carthage and West Carthage, Jefferson County, NY. The river empties into the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The banks of the Black River have hosted a variety of industry since the 1890s. Two active paper mills, one inactive paper mill, a machine shop, the Carthage/West Carthage sewage treatment plant and a hydroelectric power plant are currently located along the Black River in the Villages of Carthage and West Carthage. 

Sediment in the river and along its banks is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and other chemicals. PCBs are considered probable human carcinogens and are linked to other adverse health effects such as low birth weight, thyroid disease, and learning, memory and immune system disorders. The contamination in the river sediment may also affect sediment-dwelling organisms and may pose a threat to the health of other wildlife through the bioaccumulation of PCBs.The origin of the PCBs in the river sediments has not been identified due to the presence of multiple past and present possible sources.

The segment of the Black River under consideration, from immediately downstream of the existing and former paper mills to the Town of Herrings boat launch, is a popular fishing location for trout, salmon, bass and pike. The sediment samples collected by EPA in June 2009 document PCB and other chemical contamination of this fishery. The river is also used for whitewater rafting and kayaking at certain locations. At this time, there is no indication that drinking water sources have been impacted.

A remedial investigation will be conducted to determine the nature and extent of the contamination.

On March 2, 2010, EPA proposed that sections of the Black River be added to its Superfund National Priorities list.



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