Planet Waves | PCB Photo Tour of SUNY New Paltz in 1992, page three



This is Parker Theatre, wrapped in plastic to keep the rain off of it, inside which a Niagara brand transformer burned and ruptured on Dec. 29, 1991, badly contaminating the building, the surrounding area, and far beneath the ground's surface. About a week into the cleanup, however, temperatures dropped, and the engineers in charge of the building forgot to close the water supply to the unheated structure.


Pipes burst, spilling millions of gallons of contaminated water through the building and into the street, into storm sewers and thus into the Wallkill River. Workers filled 500 barrels with toxic ice, water and sand that night. Campus officials and contractors neglected to report the spill. it was called in to the US EPA from my office.


Sand barrier across roadway is created in an attempt to block the spread of contaminated water downhill to other parts of the campus. About three days later, the identical thing happened in the extremely contaminated Coykendall Science Building, where crews again neglected to cut the supply of water. Pipes burst, and floods carried contamination through the building directly into laboratory drains, which had been left open. The drains emptied directly into the storm sewer system, and then directly into the Wallkill. In retrospect, it's little wonder that I and my friends covering this had little faith in the effectiveness or competence of the cleanup from the beginning.

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