IBM Is Expected to Pick Up Most of the Cleanup Cost for East Fishkill PCE Pollution from the 1970s
The EPA Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. After sites are placed on the Superfund list of the most contaminated waste sites, the EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. The cleanup of a Superfund site at East Fishkill NY is expected to be performed by IBM with oversight by the EPA. The estimated cost of the cleanup is $2.7 million.
Between 1965 and 1975, Jack Manne, Inc. rented a property at 7 East Hook Cross Road in East Fishkill and operated a facility there to clean and repair computer chip racks supplied to it under a contract with International Business Machines Corp. As part of this process, solvents, including PCE, were disposed of in a septic tank and an in-ground pit located at the property.
In 2000, well sampling conducted by the New York State Department of Health indicated that residential wells in the vicinity of the facility were contaminated with PCE above the federal and state maximum contaminant levels. Following this discovery, the EPA initiated an emergency response at the site and began the delivery of bottled water to affected residences. The EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation determined that the source of the PCE contamination in these nearby residential wells was the Jack Manne/IBM facility.
Tetrachloroethylene—also known as PCE, perchloroethylene or perc—is a common chemical solvent used in dry cleaning, the cleaning of metal machinery, and in the manufacture of some consumer products and chemicals. It arrives in drinking water through discharge from factories and dry cleaning facilities.
Tetrachloroethylene has toxic effects on the central nervous system. According to the WHO, when once used to treat parasitic worms, it was known to cause “inebriation, perceptual distortion, and exhilaration.” Evidence as to its carcinogenicity remains insufficient, although it is classified by the EPA as a “likely human carcinogen” that can lead to liver problems with long term exposure.
With EPA oversight, IBM completed the removal of the sources of ground water contamination at the facility. Under the same order, IBM proposed to study alternative water supplies. In early November 2003, the EPA presented the public with the alternatives for providing a permanent water supply, and the EPA subsequently selected a connection to the Fishkill municipal water supply. In March 2009, the public water supply system was completed and began to supply drinking water to the Shenandoah Road community. In September 2002, IBM had entered into a second agreement with the EPA to perform a study of the nature and extent of contamination that remained at the site as well as cleanup alternatives.