QUEENSBURY — Town Board members voted unanimously Monday to have the state Department of Environmental Conservation handle a study on the town-owned landfill in the Jenkinsville area, nearly two months after the landfill was declared a possible Superfund site.
The decision followed a public comment period, during which residents raised concerns about conflict of interest should the town perform the study. They argued town resources could be better used to address the needs of residents.
“The town has a vested interest in the results of this site characterization, which could ultimately have a significant financial impact for the town,” said Noel Harding.
Harding’s family has been supplied with bottled drinking water by the Department of Health since his well tested positive late last year for 1,4-dioxane.
DEC began testing wells in the Jenkinsville area last year after the state adopted new thresholds for PFAS (10 parts per trillion) and 1,4-dioxane (one part per billion). The contaminants are believed to be carcinogens.
A total of 76 wells in the area have been tested since last year, and 19 have been found to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, according to DEC.
Harding spoke on behalf of around 40 residents in the area, who he has been communicating with through email, texts and face to face.
The DEC is better equipped to handle the site characterization study, which will seek the source of the contamination and develop a remediation plan, he said.
The town should focus on finding an alternative source of drinking water for residents in the affected area, he said.
Supervisor John Strough said the town is updating its plans to extend town water service to the Jenkinsville area, but that will take time. The plan was developed in 1999.
Town Board members agreed with Harding, who was one of two residents who spoke. Emma Reed expressed concerns about how DEC will communicate information to residents.
In a statement Tuesday, DEC said it will provide community updates throughout the investigation, including one this summer.
“DEC will continue to provide communications via community updates at milestone points of the project, including one this summer announcing landfill investigation progress, residential sampling updates and information about the state’s development of a site characterization,” the agency said.
The site characterization study is expected to begin later this year and take 12 to 18 months to complete. If the site is determined to be a source of the contamination, a remediation and feasibility study will then be completed.
The entire process could take up to three years, according to DEC.
Timothy McNulty, the Ward 4 representative, said he has been happy with the way DEC has worked with the town, pointing to the department’s decision to test three other landfills in the area for leaking contaminants.
Test results for two of the nearby landfills, owned by Finch Paper and Ciba-Geigy, are currently being reviewed, according to DEC. Results from the McLaughlin landfill are still pending.
The town-owned landfill is currently the only potential Superfund site, according to DEC.
“Through continued analysis of the results from these proximate landfills, it may be determined that a site characterization is necessary at one or more of these landfills to determine if the site(s) pose a significant threat to human health or the environment,” the agency said.
Ward 2 representative Harrison Freer said emerging contaminants are a growing problem in the state.
“I’m happy that there is an emerging consensus that DEC is the right agency at the right time to take a look at this project and that we’ll identify other potential sources of these emerging contaminants,” he said.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George and Washington County government. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.