In the “remediation” corner of Sleepy Hollow, you have coming soon (perhaps by winter) on the edge of the former GM site, and the getting started now in the neighborhood surrounding the Mallory/Duracell battery plant that once lived at 80 Elm Street.
The only visible sign of the clean up process thus far is the storefront project office that just opened on 160 Cortlandt Street. The hours have yet to be finalized, but some representative will be manning the one-room office on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Thursday evenings and by appointment.
"We're here," said Kurt Iverson of Duracell External Relations who met me at the renovated space one afternoon as school was getting out and kids were going up and down the sidewalk. The office (formerly , which had moved to Beekman), has light blue walls, a little kitchenette and a small conference table borrowed from the main offices of parent company Gillette in Bethel, Connecticut.
Iverson said some diagrams and informational posters that people have seen at the public hearing might be coming soon to the bare walls. Adjacent to the space is a side garden, now overrun with weeds and barricaded with barbed wire, but slated to be opened and reinvigorated with new plant-life and maybe even a bench and table.
The garden will showcase some of the types of trees people can choose from as they negotiate how the clean up and replacement landscaping will go on their property. Yes, “we are losing some [trees] we didn't want to lose,” Iverson said, adding there's also the opportunity to pick new species. In many cases, the extensiveness of the digging would be too harmful to a tree whose roots are too close to the surface to survive. And he said there's also some invasive species or those suffering from Dutch Elm disease that could use replacing.
The process will all be personalized, expert-advised, and therefore, very slow.
“It's going to be a long process,” said Village Administrator Anthony Giaccio.
“At least a year,” Iverson estimated for the duration of digging up and replacing the soil and plants at the 70+ properties deemed necessary due to their high counts of mercury.
Duracell has mailed out the first batch of letters to a small group of property owners and from there will meet with these folks either at their homes or at this office to finalize a plan of action. Workers will probably only dig at two houses at a time at a rate of multiple weeks each. The work will probably have to be put on hold over the colder winter months and continue again in the following spring.
The office is meant to serve as a tangible place for people to go talk to someone, especially those “who are not on the Internet or may be shy about calling an 800 number,” Iverson said. There will be a Spanish-speaker available.
During the remediation, Iverson said Duracell will “manage everything very tightly” from taking up minimal parking spaces to not causing any traffic problems and staging off-site in places arranged with the Village. “We will go as quickly as we can, but conservatively and in cooperation with the Village.”
Before digging on each site, workers will collect baseline air testing samples and then compare the air samples over the first three days. Soil will be wet down, sealed in bags, and transported to a facility in Pennsylvania. If the air quality remains at its baseline levels, then the workers will be able to operate with less protection after day three. “It's very unusual to see anything [change in the air quality],” said Iverson.
Giaccio said the Village was happy to rent to Duracell and grant them permits to have them clean up a garden on Cortlandt while they're at it. How the citizens affected cooperate with the whole remediation remains to be seen.
“We appreciate all the residents being so patient with this," Iverson said. "It takes time. And we're glad to finally be getting to work.”
As far as the quiet reception they've gotten – very low turnout at the back in November 2011 – Iverson said they weren't disappointed as they did their best. “All we can do if put information out there in a lot of different ways.” The storefront, they hope, will be a good resource.
For additional information: Dan Lanners, DEC, Project Manager at (866) 520-2334; Fay Navratil of the NYS Department of Health at (518) 402-7880 and the Village of Sleepy Hollow at (914) 366-5100. Remediation project work plans are available at Warner Library and Village Hall. Office hours of 160 Cortlandt Street will be posted on the project website at http://formermallorybatteryfactory.com, with email address: email@example.com and toll-free number: (877) 410-8412.