GENEVA — For 120 years, the Geneva Foundry on Jackson Street spewed smoke and soot containing lead and arsenic into the air.
Particles of those hazardous items settled into the lawns and soil of a wide area of the neighborhood.
Children played in the dirt. People planted gardens and flowers. Sheds, patios, garages and additions were built.
None of the 60 or so homeowners going to Our Lady of Peace Parish Center Tuesday were happy about lead and arsenic in, or possibly being in, their soil.
Those who had results of tests of their soil raised questions about effects on health and what will happen next.
Those who haven’t had their soil tested were assured that tests would be done soon, once the DEC receives permission to go on the properties.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Health Department had staff on hand during individual sessions from 3 to 5 and 6 to 8 p.m.
Seven tables were set up, each with at least one DEC and one DOH representative, to go over soil test results and answer questions from property owners.
The afternoon and evening sessions each drew about 30 homeowners.
Sue Rago has lived at 16 Jackson St. up the block from the Foundry for 73 years. It’s the family home and she remembers growing up when the Foundry was fired up, its smokestacks sending smoke and soot into the neighborhood.
“It would be all over the house and windows. My father had a garden for many years, but its mostly a grassy yard now,” she said.
The paper she brought to the meeting showed eight samples taken on her property a year ago. Five lead samples were above the 400 parts per million “safe” level. The high samples ranged from 660 to 1,940 parts per million.
The arsenic samples were 21.4 parts per million, slightly above the recommended level of 16 parts per million.
She’s heard the remediation proposal. “What else can they do?” she asked.
“I’m okay with the plan. Some day, either I or my children may want to sell it and it needs to be clean,” she said.
Rago said she was going to ask DEC and DOH officials where the high testing areas were, when the soil removal would take place and where the state will get money for the remediation.
“My neighbor has three children. They did these tests last October. It would have been nice to notify them earlier than this,” she added.
Craig Leisenring lives at 59 Wadsworth St., his home for 16 years. His soil tested at 457 for lead and 22.7 for arsenic.
“I blame the city or not cleaning up the Foundry site in a timely fashion. If they had, we wouldn’t have this long, drawn-out process. It could take seven years to clean up my property,” he said.
“I want to keep my property value,” Leisenring said. He said he’s disturbed the soil often, with additions to his house, gardens and other digging. He said the Foundry closed in 1988 and the city, even though it didn’t take title to the property for back taxes until 1998, should have looked into the contamination of the site before now.
“If they had cleaned it up and redeveloped the site, we wouldn’t be here today,” he added.
Patricia Morabito, of 29 State St., whose backyard is near the Foundry a street over, has lived in her house for 42 years.
Her lead level is 447 and her arsenic level is 39.2 parts per million.
“I’m very concerned for my health and if we ever want to sell the house,” she said after meeting with state officials.
“I think they are doing the best they can to clean up the properties. If they do what they say, it should be okay. But it’s a lot of money, so we’ll see if it happens,” she said.
She said living on State Street, her family never opened the windows or hung out laundry to dry because of the Foundry emissions.
Thomas and Erica Ryan, of 9 State St., came with their daughter, Zoie, age 8. Their test results showed a 402 level for lead and 38 for arsenic.
They’ve lived there for five years and have six children. They were told their soil will be re-tested.
“We’re worried about our children and our pets. We took up a paved area and put in soil and grass,” Thomas Ryan said.
“They tested us earlier and didn’t tell us the results. We didn’t really get an answer as to why that happened,” Erica Ryan said.
Another issue for the Ryans is their roof. It’s very old and Foundry emission particles fell on it for years and years, settling into the shingles. Now they have to replace it and were told they need to have the contractor take steps to contain the dust from the roof removal, which they fear could be costly.
Brady Leo, of 3 Geneva St., said he didn’t receive test results and came to find out why. “I’m within the circle and our three kids play in our dirt in the back yard,” he said.
Karen Knittle, of 29 Middle St., has lived there for 40 years. Her soil has not been tested yet. She came to make arrangements for testing to take place. “That’s the first step. Them I go from there once I get the results,” she said.
“I want to be present for the testing. I’ve planted flowers and trees and dug in the soil a lot. I have concerns, even though they say not to worry,” Knittle said.
Kelvin Wiles lived at 12 Toledo St. for four years and has lived at 37 Middle St. the last four years. Both are in the Foundry zone.
“We’ve got children ages 8 and 11. I’m here to get information. I haven’t gotten our soil tested yet, but they will do it soon,” he said, noting that his next door neighbor had a lead reading over 400 parts per million.
“I like the remediation plan. A third of our yard is exposed soil where the kids play,” he said.
The preliminary remediation plan calls for removal of soil from some 220 properties and replacing it with clean soil, disposing of the contaminated soil properly.
DEC officials said because lead and arsenic were found further into the soil on the Geneva Foundry site, soil will be removed to a depth of two feet. For residential properties, the lead and arsenic is closer to the surface and a foot of soil will be removed.
The city will do the remediation of the Foundry site. The city has owned the site since 1998. The DEC will handle the residential remediation work.
The city acquired the property for back taxes in 1998 and entered the Environmental Restoration Program. The buildings were removed in 2005.
New technology allowed the DEC to identify which contamination came from the Foundry and what was from other sources, and the remediation plan was proposed.
Public comments on the proposed plan will be accepted until Nov. 25. The comments will be considered and responded to before a final plan is proposed.
Project documents on the Foundry can be seen at the Geneva Public Library, 244 Main St.