James P. Barker said Tuesday night he wonders whether the people moving into the new Creek Wood Apartments on the north side should have any concerns about contaminants dumped at the former Air Brake site decades ago.
Mr. Barker, one of the organizers of the group that has brought up new concerns about toxic chemicals dumped at the Air Brake site on Starbuck Avenue, said the new apartment complex sits just yards away from the remnants of polluted Oily Creek and close to a now defunct landfill that the Air Brake used for years.
Mr. Barker was among 12 speakers and about 45 people who attended Tuesday nights Watertown City Council meeting to voice concerns about the chemicals dumped into nearby Kelsey Creek.
He also contended that the state Department of Environmental Conservation should have done more testing after a 2002 study showed the pollution was getting worse near Oily Creek.
Carthage resident Justin J. Lajoie, who owns property along Kelsey Creek, said he warned Jefferson County and city officials before construction began at Creek Wood that it might be being built on contaminated soil, but no one wanted to listen to him.
Over the years, Mr. Lajoie said, he went back and forth to city officials and DEC to get answers about the toxic chemicals that ended up in Kelsey Creek.
Sometimes I felt like a frisbee, Mr. Lajoie said.
In recent weeks, residents have asked the city to join them in demanding that DEC provide more information about what happened at Air Brake and in Kelsey Creek. They want DEC to conduct more tests.
But Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said city officials dont have the capability of answering the highly technical questions that residents have been asking. He suggested the group go directly to DEC officials and ask for help from the areas state lawmakers.
The mayor also again denied that the city has been involved in a cover-up about the situation, but were sensitive to your concerns.
He also told the group that city staff and City Manager Sharon A. Addison met earlier Tuesday with DEC to learn more about what was done to clean up the creek and how the contaminants were handled.
In 2008, DEC found unacceptable levels of trichloroethylene, or TCE an industrial solvent used at the Air Brake facility on Starbuck Avenue decades ago in four on-site buildings and a home at 431 E. Hoard St., which subsequently was equipped with an air-mitigation system. TCE is a suspected carcinogen that also might cause nerve disorders.
The state Department of Health and DEC tested more than 50 structures, including four buildings on the Air Brake campus, 44 houses, North and Starbuck elementary schools and a church, for TCE vapor intrusions. About 1,200 parcels were in the testing area, which primarily extended north and west of the companys Starbuck Avenue campus.
In 1995, DEC dredged Kelsey Creek and removed contaminants and soil. They were taken to the Purdy Avenue and industrial landfills, where they were sufficiently capped off, according to DECs website.
In recent weeks, residents and former neighbors have told stories about family members suffering from nerve disorders, cancer and birth defects. They said they believe the TCE got into the ground, escaped off the site and got into Kelsey Creek.
Rexford Place resident Ruth Barber Bateman said all three of her children, one of whom died, suffered birth defects after the family lived in Cloverdale Apartments, which was torn down to make way for Starwood, the multi-unit complex that now sits there.
Both Starwood and Creek Wood were built to accommodate a need for rental housing for Fort Drum soldiers.
State Street resident Joanne M. Hughes recalled how she and her friends hung out in a nearby field when she was young. She now wonders whether the toxic chemicals may have caused a rare form of thyroid cancer that she discovered when she was just 24 years old.
It was extremely rare because only elderly people get it, she said.
Susan A. Dandrow urged council members to look at the Facebook page that the group has put together because it charts how many people who lived on the north side have died of cancer.
It should scare you, and you should protect the taxpayers, she said.