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GM cleanup expected to wrap up next year; cryptocurrency miners eye portion of lot

 


An Environmental Protection Agency official says the cleanup at the former General Motors site will likely conclude in next year.

Meanwhile, the RACER trust says a cryptocurrency company is interested in a portion of the lot.

The EPA update came from Ann Kelly from the agency’s Emergency and Remedial Project Response Division at a June 14 St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency meeting in Massena.

“We’re looking at being completed in 2019 … for the GM proper remediation,” she said at the meeting, “depending on the level of contaminants, if we find any surprises.”

She said all of the underground areas and pits are cleaned, and contractors are now working toward the northwest corner of the site where they will eventually remediate a 10,000,000-gallon lagoon.

“Last year was a tough year because of all the rain. The sledges came out, the sampling that gets done after the sledges get removed, that didn’t get done last year,” Kelly cited as the reason for the work going into 2019.

Brendan Mullen from the RACER trust said the project has involved over 300,000 hours of work to date, which he said was done by local people, mostly Perras Excavating.

“We’re very proud of the work that’s been completed by local labor,” he told the RVRDA board.

Other work being done at the site, according to Kelly, includes putting in clean soil and grading it to prevent storm-water issues, and replacing an on-site groundwater treatment system.

In 2014, Kelly announced that their remediation uncovered underground pits of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) 40 feet down in concentrations 250 percent more than expected. That has since been removed, but pushed the project over budget, she said at the time.

The site is being cleaned up with funds put into the RACER Trust by General Motors after a 2007 bankruptcy court settlement. GM bought back all the properties they wanted to keep and the rest, 89 locations in 14 states, were given to RACER. Most of the cleanup money went to the Massena site, just over $121 million. There is a $68 million cushion fund to be shared among all the RACER sites.

Cryptocurrency Miners Eye Lot

The RACER trust is in negotiations with two firms to potentially lease or buy portions of the former General Motors site, one of which is a cryptocurrency and blockchain computing technology company.

Bruce Rasher, RACER redevelopment manager, revealed that information at a St. Lawrence Valley Redevelopment Agency meeting in Massena on June 14 where he gave an update on their efforts to sell the lot.

Although he said one company is in the cryptocurrency business, he would not say what field the other company is in, but did say it’s in a different field than cryptocurrency. He also would not name either company.

“We don’t disclose the identity or nature of discussions with our parties. We have entered into binding mutual non-disclosure agreements with those parties,” Rasher said at the meeting.

Cryptocurrency mining involves using powerful computers running online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to solve complex math problems that encrypt and unlock the cryptocurrency on what’s known as a blockchain. The unlocked and encrypted portions of the blockchain are then sold or traded as a commodity. Probably the most well known form of cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. There are hundreds other varieties.

He said the cryptocurrency/blockchain firm wants 20 to 30 acres of the site on the north side of state Route 37, which would leave “a substantial portion” of the overall lot open.

“They’re talking about a substantive number of employees for this operation they’re proposing,” Rasher said.

He said RACER is only concerned with getting property back on the tax rolls and creating jobs. They do not judge a suitor based on the percentage of a company’s profits that would remain local.

“RACER does not concern itself where ultimately profits from an operation go. That is not within our purview, that is not in the settlement agreement,” he said. “RACER operates under a settlement agreement, which requires among other things … benefits to the community in each sale. So we measure those benefits in terms of new private investment that creates new tax density, which generates new net taxes to local jurisdictions, as well as jobs or benefits.

“How does it benefit the community hurt by the GM shutdown?”

Some cryptocurrency farms are simply rows of computers stored in trailers or even shipping containers. He said they will not sell to a company that plans that type of development.

“We’re not prepared to enter into a transaction with a buyer who is going to throw up a bunch of trailers on site. We don’t feel that is accretive to other uses at the site … We don’t think it’s really enhancing the taxable value of the site,” according to Rasher.

Rasher said there was a second cryptocurrency/blockchain firm that was interested in portions of the site, but they pulled back from negotiations for reasons unknown.

 

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