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Toxic GM site cleanup in North Country could begin next month

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The first step in turning around a shuttered (and toxic) General Motors plant in Massena, N.Y. could begin next month.

The first act in giving a former General Motors site in Massena, N.Y. new life is expected to begin next month.

It’s no easy task.  The former GM Powertrain plant is so laced with toxic chemicals that the auto giant is spending more than $100 million on its clean-up.  It's a condition of U.S. taxpayers bailing out the car company.

In October, the White House and GM announce a settlement worth an unprecedented three-quarter of a billion dollars, which the car company must commit to restoring contaminated properties. The money is going into a trust, and is being used in clean-ups spread across 14 states.

Anne E. Kelly, with the EPA, told the Watertown Daily Times that step one in demolishing the plant is scrubbing the walls and decontaminating the facility, which is scheduled to begin in January. Razing the whole thing is expected to take a year and a half.

The site has more than 200 acres, and according to the Watertown paper.

“A 41-acre portion of the site will never be remediated and will be used as a containment area for the contaminated soils. That northeast corner near the St. Lawrence River will never be built on and may include a park or a nature trail.”

However, other parts of the property hardly need any cleanup and could be redeveloped much sooner. How that redevelopment will be financed isn’t GM’s problem, according to Kelly.  They’re just responsible for the clean up:

"Remediation funds do not include redevelopment funds," Ms. Kelly said. "That process does not include funding for entrepreneurs or anybody who would want to develop that site."

When the site closed down more than a year ago, around 50 jobs went with it (down from 500 in 2007).  But workers in the region got a bit of good news recently, medicine maker Pristine Pharma Corporation announced that it would begin manufacturing medicine in a vacant plant beginning in February.

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