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Mercury cleanup to begin

Five companies are being held responsible for the cleanup of the former Mercury Refining superfund site, an old mercury reclamation facility in the towns of Colonie and Guilderland.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in the beginning of August a legal settlement had been reached to clean the site. The Gillette Company, KeySpan Gas East Corporation, Energizer Battery Manufacturing, Union Carbide Corporation and Spectrum Brands will need to address soil, sediment and groundwater contaminated with mercury.

“This agreement allows EPA to finish the important work that began several years ago to clean up the site so that people and the environment are protected,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck in a statement. “The agreement also ensures that the parties responsible for the contamination at the site will also be held accountable for cleaning it up at their own expense, rather than at the expense of taxpayers.”

The site is located at 26 Railroad Ave., Albany, just behind the University at Albany.

According to the EPA, the settlement stipulates that 19 federal agencies and 46 additional entities are responsible for the contamination. They will make payments into an escrow account to fund the cleanup work at the site, along with the current owner of the site. He will take responsibility for land use restrictions to be put into place.

“Mercury is an extremely toxic metal that can cause health problems, especially in children. Exposure to mercury can harm the heart, kidneys, lungs, immune and nervous systems,” said information released by the EPA.

The agency claims that for more than 40 years, mercury from batteries, thermometers and electronics were recovered and refined on site by the Mercury Refining Company. The process caused mercury to contaminate the site and mercury-laden stormwater then found its way into Patroon Creek. Mercury Reclamation ended its operations at the site in 1998.

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