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Sleepy Hollow Debates General Motors Cleanup

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – Plans for the cleanup of the General Motors site in Sleepy Hollow drew mixed reactions from residents, local officials and environmental advocates during a meeting held Thursday night.

Residents questioned whether the cleanup plans went far enough. Village officials said they supported the plans, but wanted to make sure the cleanup was properly monitored. Environmental advocates asked for an extended comment period so that they could read and fully understand thousands of pages of documents related to the cleanup.

“I think we've grossly oversimplified what unfortunately is a complex series of issues,” Sleepy Hollow resident Mark Fry said. “I don't see how the public can effectively comment” on the proposed plans.

Proposed remedies for the 97-acre site include providing a cover system of at least a minimum of 2 feet of soil where grasses and other plants are desired and vapor mitigation plans for future development.

Officials are also proposing the removal of about 4,400 cubic yards of off-site, contaminated Hudson River sediments about 150 feet north and south of an existing storm water outfall.

Project Manager Jason Pelton said the public comment period ends on March 30, and then the DEC would prepare a final decision document to be distributed in early April. Remediation would begin within half a year to a year after the final decision, Pelton said.

Sleepy Hollow resident and former Planning Board Chair Nicholas Robinson addressed several specific concerns about the cleanup, including utility work in the contaminated soil after the land is developed, and the fact that the DEC is not recommending the cleanup of groundwater and potential problems with dust from the river dredging.

“The wind blows fairly nice most of the year,” Robinson said. “If we don't have a dust depression system, there's going to be contaminated dust in all the neighborhoods around the site depending on which way the wind is blowing.”

Robinson said he felt things should be addressed fully in the final decision document.

Residents took issue with the fact that the DEC only presented two alternative plans: an extremely expensive proposal that would be more than three quarters of a billion dollars to restore the entire site to its natural condition before the contamination occurred, and a less expensive proposal totaling $10 million to cap the site and restore parts of the polluted soil on land and in the river.

DEC Attorney Nathaniel Barber said the state included an expensive proposal to restore the entire site because it was required by law. He also noted that the Brownfield Cleanup Program is voluntary, and the DEC wanted to present a proposal to GM that they would actually undertake.

Sleepy Hollow resident Mario Belanich disagreed with many residents on the scope of the project, saying “I think whatever they did so far to clean is more than enough.”

Village officials said they wanted to make sure that the sediment removal process would not expose residents to harmful dust. They also argued that the rail line should be used to transport sediments instead of trucks. The 2007 interim remediation used rail to great success, they said.

Village officials and representatives also argued that General Motors should retain some sort of responsibility after the property is developed and sold in case the developer does not follow DEC site management guidelines.

Mayor Ken Wray said in a letter that the DEC should use the $875,000 in settlement money from General Motors on a project in or near the village, such as the Kingsland Point Park bathhouse or shoreline restoration and dredging of the Pocantico River.

Riverkeeper's Philip Musegaas questioned why the groundwater was not being remediated further.

“This idea that there is potentially no exchange between the river and the groundwater that's under the site seems to stretch the imagination a little bit,” Musegaas said. “Sites built on fill—there's significant interaction with the river.”

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