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RACER Officials: We’re not leaving this job until we’re finished

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MASSENA — Despite being millions of dollars over budget, RACER (Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response) Trust officials said Thursday they are committed to the cleanup of Massena’s former General Motors plant, no matter how much it ends up costing.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Project Manager Ann E. Kelley said in a presentation outlining work so far at the former GM site that nearly three times as much waste as anticipated has been hauled out.

When the project was approved by the bankruptcy court, it was anticipated that 120,000 tons of hazardous waste would be removed. To date, Ms. Kelley said, 335,000 tons have been removed.

She said 25,000 tons were removed when the main plant was demolished, 150,000 tons when the slab and underground tunnels were removed, and 160,000 tons during the cleanup of the property’s northern disposal area.

In addition, Ms. Kelley said, much of the waste from the site was “very dense.” Typically, she said, a cubic yard of waste weighs about 1.4 tons. However, waste removed from the GM site is between 1.8 and 1.9 tons per cubic yard.

Noting the impact that has had on project costs, she said, “You pay by the weight; you don’t pay by volume. We have spent more on disposal than we had anticipated.”

When asked how exactly those figures translated to dollars, Ms. Kelley declined to specify just how far over budget the project is so far.

M. Brendan Mullen, state project manager for the trust, said it’s important to remember the project’s $121 million price tag wasn’t just for the disposal and cleanup of the property, meaning that while that portion of the project is over budget, there is money still available. Mr. Mullen also said there is a $68 million pool of money available that RACER could dip into.

Should that money be exhausted, which Mr. Mullen said was unlikely, given the site’s designation as a Superfund site, the federal government would step in.

As for the $68 million, Ms. Kelley said that money isn’t owned by the EPA, the trust or anyone in particular, with trusts from other states where RACER is working having to agree to release the funds.

“You have to ask for the cushion fund,” she said. “You can’t ask until you demonstrate need.”

She did say she believes there is enough money if needed in that fund to complete Massena’s project.

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