BALLSTON SPA — This week, federal environmental officials began the process of installing technical devices at dozens of properties to monitor air quality near the Rickett’s Dry Cleaning and Laundry building. Their goal is to determine the extent of chemical contamination discovered last summer at that shuttered village business.
Don Graham, a scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said small teams of federal contractors will install devices inside numerous homes and businesses in the Village of Ballston Spa to obtain air samples, through the month of February. Colder weather is ideal for taking such measurements, he said.
Rickett’s, situated along a busy stretch of Doubleday Avenue, closed for business in 2014, according to the EPA. Today, the building’s dilapidated exterior makes it a plainly visible contrast to other popular businesses in the area.
In July 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had requested an EPA assessment, which revealed a “historic release” of the chemical PERC that was commonly used in dry cleaning activities. Other chemicals identified in that EPA assessment included chloroform, vinyl chloride and benzene. An EPA fact sheet detailing the Rickett’s site further indicates, “low-level chemical exposures over many years may raise the lifetime risk of cancer or chronic disease.”
Graham explained that some chemicals migrated away from the Rickett’s property and had seeped into ground water. In turn, those chemicals can be released into the environment as vapors through cracks in the foundations of adjacent properties, particularly downhill to the east and south of Doubleday Avenue (Route 50).
Larisa Romanowski, the EPA’s community involvement coordinator, expressed the importance of conveying to village property owners that their “drinking water is not impacted” by any chemical contamination at the Rickett’s site.
The village’s water is supplied by a large aquifer to the north in the Town of Milton, according to Graham.
“That’s where all of our water comes from,” confirmed Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano. For all village residents, he said, contamination of drinking water “should not be one of their concerns.”
Precise measurements from the EPA’s technical monitors will be compiled sometime in March, Graham continued. He will be “surprised,” he said, if chemicals have not migrated from the Rickett’s site. Property owners whose land or structures appear to be contaminated, Graham added, “will get a call from me.”
The next steps by the EPA would involve installation of radon mitigation systems that effectively vent most hazardous vapors before they enter homes or businesses.
In recent weeks, Romano said he personally reached out to property owners living near the Rickett’s site to recommend they consent to the EPA testing. He observed between 75 and 100 local residents in attendance at a public forum in the village on January 23, during which EPA officials had provided more information and residents voiced their concerns.
“I’ll be reaching out to various agencies…asking that they take a look at this,” Romano said.
The mayor was unable to predict when the chemical contamination found at the Rickett’s property would be fully cleaned up. “I would love to see it happen this year,” Romano said.