Summary of IBM’s History in Endicott, NY:
In 1906 a small time recording company moved to Endicott, NY. This company was originally International Time Recording Company (ITR). Within the year ITR and two other companies folded into what is now know as IBM[1]. Originally the site was small but quickly sprawled into a site containing twenty five building and thousands of workers[2]. In 1979 IBM Endicott reported a spill 4,100 gallons of TCE (methyl chloroform) a commonly used volatile organic compound (VOC)[3]. A comprehensive report prepared by IBM indicated that the plume was larger than expected and contained other industrial solvents. All of these VOCs and industrial solvents seeped into the groundwater. Since the discovery of the spill groundwater remediation and monitoring has been in effect and continuous to this day. In 2002 based on increased knowledge of VOCs IBM was forced to investigate the possibility that the vapors moved from the groundwater to the buildings[4]. It was found that the VOCs had in fact moved into the air in buildings on and around the spill site and in 2004 Endicott was classified as a Superfund site[5]. IBM has taken responsibility for most of the spill but points out that other industries in Endicott could have contributed to the contamination of the aquifer. Therefore the Department of Environmental Conservation has begun a comprehensive study of the area to determine the full extent of the groundwater and air pollution. Another aspect of the study is to determine if other industries also contributed to the groundwater contamination[6].


Pictures of the IBM site in Endicott

IBM_1915.jpg
IBM in 1915


IBM_1929.jpg
IBM in 1929


IBM_1960.jpg
IBM in 1960



The Spill/Release

Cause: TCE was used in the cleaning of parts and tools during the production of IBM’s business machines including computer parts until its closing after almost 90 years of operation. Solvents were dumped into and through drains and leached through leaky pipes for years.

Amount Spilled: The total amount in gallons or weight of the solvents can only be estimated over the life of the IBM plant in Endicott. It is said tons were dumped into the ground over the many years of operation.

Implications: The result of the continuous dumping has left the town with an uncertain health future. There have been cases of cancer and other illnesses attributed to the chemicals.

Groundwater to Air:

The problem was thought to be over for more than 20 years until scientists working on a similar problem in Redfield, Colorado discovered vapor intrusion (VI). VI occurs when chemicals in the ground or water move or seep to “inside” air. This includes homes, businesses, schools, and any building located over the contaminated area.

The Clean-up:

New York State DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) Geologist Alex Czuhanich cautions that a clean-up effort of this size will likely take up to “…a couple of decades” (YNN News 2010)[1]. The clean-up is expected to have up to 80% of the clean-up completed by 2014. A large amount of the contaminant has already been cleaned up but the work becomes more difficult as the amount in the ground is decreased.

Legal Action 3/3/2011:

Attorneys for the IBM Corporation have requested a change of venue from Broome County to one outside the county. According to YNN (Syracuse, NY)[2] news reports, about 1000 people are suing IBM for dumping of TCE in Endicott. Attorneys for the plaintiffs have filed complaints stating the dumping caused illnesses including cancer due to the exposure of the chemical.



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This map shows the former IBM campus and the size of the spill.


World Health Organization and TCE:

The World Health Organization has listed TCE on its list of contaminants and the research includes multiple articles, papers, and books in its studies. The studies are from areas in Canada and the United States and specifically in drinking water contamination. Air contamination states when exposed to the atmosphere the chemical vapor does not persist for any length of time.[3] Protecting ground water is a major concern of the WTO.

Rio+ 20[4] urges all countries to engage in sound chemical management while considering international development assistance. International POPS Elimination Network (IPEN) has over 700 NGO’s involved in careful use of chemicals to eliminate their adverse affects to humans and the environment[5].

Clean Air Act:

The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 to regulate air pollution from stationary and mobile sources[6]. The act regulates six main criteria pollutants including particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead and ozone. The act established a number of programs and mechanisms including National Ambient Air Quality Standards, National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants, increased enforcement authority and requirements for control of motor vehicle emissions[7]. Since its creation their have been many amendments to the Clean Air Act. The most recent amendments were added in 1990 and focus on acid rain. Some of the programs and mechanisms created were the Acid Deposition Control, a program designed to control 189 toxic pollutants, expand and modify the provision concerning the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and establish a program to phase out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer[8].

Clean Water Act:

The Clean Water Act was enacted by congress as the primary legislative body designed to restore and maintain the physical, biological, and chemical integrity of the nation’s waters[9]. The laws associated with the Clean Water Act are directed at point and non point sources of pollution[10]. The Clean Water Act congress has enacted several programs that are designed to protect the nation’s water bodies[11]. The goals of some of these programs are to establish national discharge standards for criteria pollutants and national effluent standards for major industrial categories.

There are three main acts that are used to restore and maintain the nation’s waters. These acts are section 303 (d) 304, and 319. Section 303 (d) requires states to develop total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for their water bodies that are not meeting designated uses under technology-based controls for pollution[12]. TMDLs are the maximum amount of a pollutant that can be present in a water body while still maintaining water quality standards. States must develop a TMDL for each pollutant of concern, and develop and implement plans to achieve and maintain TMDLs by allocating reductions among point and nonpoint sources[13]. Section 304 requires the EPA to develop a risk based criteria for water quality that accurately reflects the latest scientific knowledge and addresses the impacts of pollutant concentrations on human health and the environment (U.S Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004). This section provides guidance for states that are attempting to implement 303 standards and requires them to review these standards at least every three years and revise them as appropriate (U.S Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004). Section 319 of the Clean Water Act requires states to assess the nonpoint source water pollution associated with surface and groundwater within their borders and then develop and implement a management strategy to control and abate the pollution.

Both of these sections have their own weakness. For example while the United States has made huge strides in controlling point source pollution, little has been done to control nonpoint source pollution. One weakness of section 303 (d) is that while the EPA directs states to implement TDML it has done little to help them establish these water quality measures. Another problem with section 319 is that the EPA has little authority to force states to follow the procedures for addressing nonpoint pollution[14]

Superfund:

Superfund was established under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act in 1980[15]. Superfund is a government program that is meant to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites[16]. The Law was enacted after the discovery of two toxic dump sites in the 1970s[17]. The law allows the EPA to clean up contaminated sites and compel industries responsible to have an active role in the clean up process[18].

The city of Endicott falls under this law due to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the groundwater[19]. The major threat to human health originally was drinking contaminated water[20]. A long term cleanup process was enacted after the site was designated as a superfund and in September 2011 the EPA concluded that the cleanup efforts are protecting human health and the environment[21]. However, it is still classified as a class 2 state superfund site, which means the hazardous waste is considered a significant threat to human health and the environment[22].

The Convention on Long Range Transboundary Pollution (LRTAP)

The Convention on Long Range Transboundary Pollution began in 1979 in response to the findings from Swedish scientist Svante Oden[23]. Svante Oden showed that long range transport of SO2 was responsible for the Swedish aquatic acidification. This source of this SO2 was from factories in developed countries which signifigantly increased the height of their industrial chimneys[24]. The LRTAP convention was signed in 1979 by thirty five countries. The goal of the convention was to limit, gradually reduce, and prevent air pollution, including long range transboundary air pollution[25]. Under the convention the signed parties are required to develop policies to limit air pollution and to exchange information regarding air pollution. While the convention set up an important framework to respond to air pollution concerns it did not set any timely reductions and veto states rejected any commitment that was considered to have an effect on the economy[26].

The LRTAP parties meet annually and in 1991 they adopted a protocol on volatile organic compound, a major air pollutant involved in the formation of ground level ozone. The convention developed three protocols which a country could choose based on its needs and air quality. The first protocol was that a country would reduce its VOC emissions by 30%. The second protocol was that VOC could be reduced in areas of transboundary concern. The last protocol was that countries could place a freeze on VOC emissions. The limitations of the convention were that the United States and the former USSR did not sign and the veto states could simply chose to not participate.
Videos about IBM
http://www.wicz.com/news/video.asp?video=1-23-12+ibm.flv
http://centralny.ynn.com/content/video_stories/535456/ibm-asks-for-tce-case-to-be-moved/
http://centralny.ynn.com/content/video_stories/539054/nys-dec-updates-endicott-cleanup-progress/?ap=1&MP4
http://www.syracuse.com/specialreports/index.ssf/2009/01/life_in_the_plume_ibms_polluti.html




[1] http://centralny.ynn.com/content/video_stories/539054/nys-dec-updates-endicott-cleanup-progress/?ap=1&MP4
[2] http://centralny.ynn.com/content/video_stories/535456/ibm-asks-for-tce-case-to-be-moved/
[3] http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/trichloroethenemay05.pdf
[4] http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/index.php?page=view&nr=771&type=230&menu=39
[5] http://www.clu-in.org/contaminantfocus/default.focus/sec/Trichloroethylene_(TCE)/cat/Overview/
[6] U.S Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. Review of U.S Ocean and Coastal Law, The Evolution of Ocean Governance Over Three Decades, Appendix 6 to An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/append_6.pdf.
[7] http://epa.gov/air/caa/caa_history.html
[8] http://epa.gov/air/caa/caa_history.html
[9] U.S Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. Review of U.S Ocean and Coastal Law, The Evolution of Ocean Governance Over Three Decades, Appendix 6 to An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/append_6.pdf.

[10] U.S Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. Review of U.S Ocean and Coastal Law, The Evolution of Ocean Governance Over Three Decades, Appendix 6 to An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/append_6.pdf.

[11] U.S Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. Review of U.S Ocean and Coastal Law, The Evolution of Ocean Governance Over Three Decades, Appendix 6 to An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/append_6.pdf.

[12] U.S Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. Review of U.S Ocean and Coastal Law, The Evolution of Ocean Governance Over Three Decades, Appendix 6 to An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/append_6.pdf.

[13] U.S Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. Review of U.S Ocean and Coastal Law, The Evolution of Ocean Governance Over Three Decades, Appendix 6 to An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/append_6.pdf.

[14] U.S Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. Review of U.S Ocean and Coastal Law, The Evolution of Ocean Governance Over Three Decades, Appendix 6 to An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century. http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/append_6.pdf.

[15] http://www.epa.gov/superfund/index.htm
[16] http://www.epa.gov/superfund/index.htm
[17] http://www.epa.gov/superfund/index.htm
[18] http://www.epa.gov/superfund/index.htm
[19] http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/0202264c.pdf
[20] http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/0202264c.pdf
[21] http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/0202264c.pdf
[22] http://www.epa.gov/region2/waste/fsibmend.htmNews Video about IBM Case
[23] Chasek, Pamela S., Davide L. Downie, and Janet Welsh Brown. 2010. Global Environmental Politics, Fifth edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press
[24] Chasek, Pamela S., Davide L. Downie, and Janet Welsh Brown. 2010. Global Environmental Politics, Fifth edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press
[25] Chasek, Pamela S., Davide L. Downie, and Janet Welsh Brown. 2010. Global Environmental Politics, Fifth edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press
[26] Chasek, Pamela S., Davide L. Downie, and Janet Welsh Brown. 2010. Global Environmental Politics, Fifth edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press