Onondaga Lake Superfund (NPL) Sites - Site Descriptions - Harbor Brook/ Solvay Wastebed B

Harbor Brook/ Solvay Wastebed B

A sub-site of the Onondaga Lake Superfund Site  

New 2009 Fact Sheet

site area


The Waste Bed B/Harbor Brook Site is a subsite of the Onondaga Lake Superfund site and is located adjacent to Onondaga Lake, Route I-690, and Harbor Brook. The site is approximately 90 acres in size and is comprised of 4 areas: the Lakeshore Area/Wastebed B, the Penn-Can property, the Railroad property, and Harbor Brook.

  1. Lakeshore Area: This area (also known as “Wastebed B”) was used by Allied-Honeywell for the disposal of Solvay Waste from approximately 1908 until the late 1920s. Between 1950 and 1966 the city of Syracuse used the southeast end of the wastebed for disposal of sewage sludge. The Wastebed B area also contains Dredge Spoils Areas 1 and 2, which are the disposal areas from the construction and maintenance dredging of the East Flume, and the installation of the thermal diffuser pipe in the lake, respectively. The East Flume, which was a major discharge point for wastes from Allied's chemical plants, is located within the Lakeshore Area.

  2. Penn-Can property: The Penn-Can property was historically used for the production and storage of asphalt products. In 1919, the Barrett Division of Semet Solvay Company began a paving-material production facility, which was operated by the Allied Chemical Corporation (later Honeywell) until 1983, when it was sold to the Penn-Can Corporation. Today the site consists of buildings, aboveground storage tanks, and a gravel parking lot, with limited vegetation around the periphery of the area. Based on the initial investigation, the Penn-Can property appears to be an ongoing source of naphthalene-- a contaminated liquid organic waste. This plume is moving under the Wastebed B area and Harbor Brook, and possibly to the lake.

  3. Railroad property: The Railroad (RR) property is owned by CSX and is south of the Penn-Can property and CSX mainline tracks. Historical uses of the CSX Railroad Area are not known, although it is believed to have been controlled by the railroad from at least 1900 until the present.

  4. Harbor Brook: Harbor Brook is a small tributary to Onondaga Lake that flows through the city of Syracuse and enters Onondaga Lake in its southernmost corner.  Before entering Onondaga Lake, Harbor Brook flows adjacent to the CSX Railroad Area, the Penn-Can site, and the Lakeshore Area. Data on Harbor Brook and nearby lake sediments at the mouth of Harbor Brook show extreme levels of contamination.

Environmental Issues

    The primary contaminants of concern at the site include benzene, toluene, xylene (BTX), naphthalene, and mercury. Other contaminants include chlorinated benzenes, dioxins, and furans. A plume of non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) has been found in the subsurface soils. The NAPL is primarily composed of naphthalene, BTX, and other coal tar-related constituents. The NAPL is also present in Harbor Brook sediments and in underlying soils at depths of approximately 7 to 15 feet below the sediment/water interface. In one section of the brook, NAPL was observed at the sediment/water interface. Other areas at the site have high levels of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. PCBs, and metals (including mercury). The site presents a significant environmental threat due to the presence of NAPL and high levels of contaminants in groundwater and other soils and sediments. The site contributes to the contamination in Onondaga Lake.

NAPL is an organic liquid-- like oil-- that does not mix with water. Some NAPL is less dense than water, so it floats on the surface of groundwater (gasoline spills are a good example of this). Other NAPL, termed “DNAPL” or Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid, sinks in water. Chlorinated compounds such as chlorinated benzene mixtures form DNAPLs.

  Sediments in this section of Harbor Brook are extremely contaminated. There is potential for direct contact with soil and sediment by trespassers in unoccupied portions of the site, though access is inconvenient, and by industrial workers at the Penn Cann and CSX properties. Site contaminants may be accumulating in fish. The groundwater has been polluted by many contaminants including mercury.
   The East Flume, which is also quite contaminated, is being addressed separately. A wetland located near Ley Creek (SYW-12) is also being investigated with the site.

What's been done to address the problem?

A Preliminary Site Assessment (PSA) has been completed, but the results have not been publically released. As of this writing, a Remedial Investigation of the site is underway. Two Interim Remedial Measures (IRMs), are being implemented:
1) the East Flume, is being investigated separately, and a cleanup plan developed.

2) a barrier wall is being constructed along the shoreline of Onondaga Lake. Phase III, which is scheduled to be completed in 2011, will extend along the entire length of the Lakeshore Area to Harbor Brook.


The second phase of the barrier wall extends into the lake to protect utilities along the shoreline.

A vibratory hammer is used to push the steel panels down into the lake's bottom

A vibratory hammer is used to push the steel panels down into the lake's bottom
The hammer creates a vibration, allowing the sheet to slide easily into place.

The third and final section of the barrier wall will extend from the East Flume to Harbor Brook. Construction is slated to begin in 2010. Progress also continues on preliminary design work and geotechnical investigations along the lake shore between the East Flume and Harbor Brook. Data collected will support the design of the third phase of the barrier wall.

Aerial view taken April of 2006

april 1994

Aerial view taken April of 1994

1938 aerial

Partial List of site Contaminants

CAS # Contaminant Name Contaminated
More Information
  Dioxins and Dioxin-Like Compounds  SOIL/ GROUNDWATER ATSDR Profile

Contacts for more information and comments:

Richard Mustico, Project Manager     rxmustic@gw.dec.state.ny.us             phone: 518-402-9676
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, 12th floor; Albany, NY 12233-7016

Documents for this site are available for public inspection at:
Atlantic States Legal Foundation Depository Library
658 West Onondaga Street, Syracuse NY 13204-3711
Please call (315) 475-1170 to make an appointment.

Onondaga County Public Library
Central Branch at the Galleries 447 South Salina Street, Syracuse, NY 13202
Phone: (315) 435-1800      [No appointment needed.]
Hours: M, Th, Fri, Sat, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Tu, W, 9:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7016
Hours: M - Fri, 8:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Please call (518) 402-9676 to make an appointment

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Region 7
615 Erie Blvd. West, Syracuse, NY 13204-2400
Hours: M - Fri, 8:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Please call (315) 426-7400 to make an appointment

This Fact Sheet was funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Technical Assistance Grant program.