Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The General Motors (Central Foundry Division) (GM) site is located in Massena, Franklin County, New York. The site is bordered by the St. Lawrence River to the north, the St. Regis Mohawk Nation to the east, the Raquette River to the south and property owned by Alcoa and CSX to the west.

The facility, located on 217 acres, was built to produce aluminum cylinder heads for the Chevrolet Corvair. The facility operated as an aluminum die-casting plant from 1959 to May 2009. Until 1980, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were a component of hydraulic fluids used in die-casting machines at the facility.

While in operation, various industrial wastes were generated and disposed of on-site, namely, two disposal areas (the North Disposal Area and the East Disposal Area), an Industrial Landfill, and four industrial lagoons. As a result of the on-site operations and disposal activites, PCBs contaminated the groundwater, on- and off-property soil, and sediment in the St. Lawrence and Raquette Rivers, Turtle Cove, and Turtle Creek. Groundwater was also contaminated with volatile organic compounds and phenols were detected in lagoon sludge, as well as in the disposal areas. Public water supply systems have not been impacted.

Akwesasne (Land Where the Partridge Drums), the Mohawk territory of the federally-recognized St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT)-- is located along the St. Lawrence River downstream of the site. The SRMT territory is located in New York and across the Canadian border in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada. According to the SRMT, Akwesasne has a population of 12,400 people and covers a land area of approximately 16,640 square acres, which includes wetlands, agricultural land, woodlands, and light commercial development. The consumption of fish or wildlife from contaminated areas is of special concern because of the proximity of the SRMT Tribal lands.

EPA added the GM site to the Superfund National Priorities List in 1984.

EPA and GM were working cooperatively to remediate the site when GM filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. To continue the remediaiton work, the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust was formed in 2011. The cleanup work is overseen by representatives of EPA, the SRMT Environmental Division, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).


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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

The cleanup of the GM site is ongoing and is being addressed in two stages: immediate actions, which included the installation of a cap on the Industrial Landfill at the site in 1987 to prevent the surface flow of contaminants and reduce potential air exposure from contaminants, and  long-term cleanup, focusing on the cleanup of St. Lawrence and Raquette River system sediments, excavation and removal of contaminated on-site soils, removal of contaminated soil and sediment on St. Regis Mohawk Tribal properties (including Turtle Cove), and collection and treatment of contaminated groundwater.

The work that has been completed at the site is summarized below.

River Sediments, Lagoons, Soils and Groundwater: The remedy selected by EPA in the site’s December 1990 Record of Decision, or ROD, includes dredging and excavating contaminated materials, followed by on-site treatment and disposal of residual contamination and groundwater extraction and treatment. EPA later updated the remedy to allow for off-site disposal, rather than on-site treatment of certain remediation wastes.

GM completed dredging of PCB-contaminated St. Lawrence River sediments in 1995. Because cleanup goals were not reached in all targeted areas, a multilayer cap was placed over those sediments. The dredged sediments were shipped by rail to a hazardous waste disposal facility.

From 2000 through 2004, contaminated sludges and soils associated with a 1.5-million gallon lagoon and a 350,000-gallon lagoon were dug up, stabilized, and shipped to an off-site disposal facility.

In 2002, GM began remediating riverbank soils and sediments. This work was finished in 2003, with GM successfully meeting the cleanup goals of 10 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) PCBs for soils and 1 mg/kg PCBs for sediments.

n 2003, GM completed the removal of contaminated soils at the toe of the slope of the Industrial Landfill.

In 2004, GM began cleaning up Turtle Cove. Remediation included the dredging of the cove and the excavation of contaminated soils on the adjacent tribal property. These areas were subject to the Tribal remediation standards of 0.1 mg/kg PCBs for sediments and 1 mg/kg PCBs for soils. This work finished in 2005. The cleanup of the soils on another tribal property took place in 2007. One remaining tribal property cannot be remediated until the property owners provide access to it.

Industrial Landfill and East Disposal Area: The remedy selected by EPA in the site’s 1992 ROD includes excavating highly contaminated materials from the East Disposal Area, followed by on-site treatment and disposal of residual contamination, capping the Industrial Landfill and less contaminated materials in the East Disposal Area, and groundwater containment. GM began the engineering design of this remedy in 1992. The design plans were not, however, completed due to strong public opposition to the containment remedy. EPA updated the site remedy in 1999 to allow for off-site disposal rather than treatment of these materials. EPA modified the site remedy in 2000, allowing for the off-site disposal of certain materials after on-site treatment via stabilization, rather than thermal desorption.

Sampling in 2008, 2009, and 2010 found elevated concentrations of PCBs in and on interior building surfaces. Contamination was also found in tunnels and soils located beneath the main production floor level at the plant. Under a Unilateral Administrative Order, RACER demolished the buildings and addressed the contaminated soils and materials. The demolition, excavation of sub-slab soils and off-site disposal effort was performed from 2011-2014.

The remediation of the North Disposal Area, which included the demolition of aeration basins, waste water treatment buildings and Butler Building, and excavation of the contaminated soils underlying these buildings, was completed in 2014. The excavation of the East Disposal Area was completed in 2015. Also in 2015, a 150-foot landfill setback – a waste-free buffer zone along the Tribal border and the St. Lawrence River--was created. The replacement of a temporary cap on the Industrial Landfill, with a multi-layered engineered cap, was complted in 2017. The dredging of a 10-million gallon lagoon was completed in 2019. Ongoing activities include the construction of a groundwater collection and treatment system.It is anticipated that this work will be completed by fall 2020. Additional work will include the removal of contaminated soils and sediments from a Tribal property. It is anticipated that this work will be completed in 2021.

EPA has conducted five-year reviews at the site in July 2005, July 2010, and September 2015. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by site decision documents. The reviews have concluded that response actions at the site to date are in accordance with the remedy selected by EPA and that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment in the short term. The remedy will be protective in the long-term once the remaining remedial measures called for in the RODs are put in place. EPA will complete another five-year review by September 2020.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

The ongoing activities include the construction of a permanent groundwater collection and treatment system. Additional work includes the removal of contaminated soils and sediments from a Tribal property.


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