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Cortese Landfill
Narrowsburg, New York

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Larisa Romanowski - (518) 407-0400

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The 5-acre Cortese Landfill site is located in a wooded area near the Delaware River in the hamlet of Narrowsburg in Sullivan County, New York. There are approximately 550 people living within a mile of the site with six homes located about 400 feet from the landfill. The Delaware River, classified by the National Park Service as a Wild and Scenic River, is located 450 feet from the landfill and is used for fishing and recreational activities. In the early 1980’s, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)  found volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and heavy metals in the ground and surface water. VOCs are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air. Both VOCs and heavy metals are known to have adverse health effects. The source of contamination was attributed to historical dumping of industrial wastes at the Cortese Landfill.

From 1970 to 1981 the site received municipal waste. For a six-month period in 1973, drums of industrial wastes were brought to the site. The drums contained paint thinners and sludge, solvents, dyes, waste oil and petroleum products. Disposal is believed to have included the burial of 5,000 to 8,000 drums, emptying of drums in trenches, and the emptying of tanker trucks into one of the two septage lagoons. The ground water is contaminated with various VOCs and heavy metals because of contaminant migration. The EPA’s cleanup goals for this site include restoring the aquifer downgradient of the landfill as a potential source of drinking water by reducing contaminant levels to federal and state acceptable levels. Until that goal is accomplished, it should be noted that the municipal water well has never revealed contamination and there are no private water wells in the area. Furthermore, continued monitoring has revealed that VOC and heavy metal levels in the Delaware River near the landfill are within the EPA’s acceptable levels.

In September 1994, the EPA decided on a cleanup plan which is explained in a document called a Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD called for drum removal, capping of the landfill, and ground water extraction and treatment.  The cleanup, including capping the site and the removal of over 5,000 drums, three tractor trailer loads of hazardous sludge, and 50 dump trucks of contaminated soil, was completed in October of 1998. In 2001 and 2004, studies of downgradient ground water and soil beneath the site were conducted.  Based on the results of studies, the ground water extraction and treatment system required by the 1994 ROD was reassessed and new cleanup options were evaluated for addressing the contaminated ground water and newly discovered sources of contamination. 

On October 5, 2010, a ROD was signed that selected a cleanup plan to address the contaminated ground water and sources of contamination at the site. Under the plan, a series of technologies will be used to address the sources of contamination beneath the former drum-disposal areas. One of the technologies to be used is “air-sparging,” which involves injecting air directly into the contaminated source zone and surrounding ground water. As the air bubbles rise, the volatilized contaminants are removed by physical contact with the air, and are carried up into the soil where they are collected using a vapor extraction system. Construction of these technologies began in October 2012 and was completed by the end of 2013.  It is anticipated that these components of the remedy will need to be run for seven years.

Under Superfund, the EPA conducts reviews every five years at cleanup sites to evaluate if they continue to protect human health and the environment. The EPA issued Five-Year Review reports for the Cortese Landfill in August 2001, August 2006, and July 2011. The July 2011 report determined that implemented actions at the site protect human health and the environment because a storm-water diversion trench has been constructed to reduce infiltration into the landfill and the cap has been constructed which reduces contaminant migration to ground water and prevents direct contact with contaminants.


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