On Monday, the Women’s Association and Foundry Action Committee held a press conference outlining what they’d like to see the City of Geneva do in response to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s assessment that the City was not legally obligated to remain silent on soil testing around the former-Geneva Foundry.
The Foundry Action Committee called for a number of changes, including the following:
- All communications from the city about the foundry zone in both English and Spanish, and an interpreter at council meetings
- Signage and fencing on the foundry site alerting people of the contamination there
- Free healthcare for all impacted residents
- Free access to nearby, supervised, outdoor spaces for children
- Free access to nearby fruits and vegetables
- Free testing and admission to dog parks for pets
- Tax relief and rent holiday until each contaminated property is cleaned up
- Compensation of back taxes covering the time between when the city knew of the contamination and when it informed the residents
On Wednesday, Geneva City Manager Matt Horn responded to some of the requests, pointing out that logistically — it would be difficult, if not impossible to fully-implement.
Horn explained, “We have taken the demands of the Women’s Association and Foundry Action Committee very seriously, and have moved quickly to implement support efforts for the residents of the impacted area.”
Under the circumstances, the City has contended that very little to do with the cleanup efforts specifically can be modified by the City — since the DEC is handling that process from start to finish.
“Nonetheless, we have made clear to the DEC, and received confirmation that they understand the critical nature of the timeline,” Horn added. “We have engaged with our legislators, Senator Helming and Minority Leader Kolb, who have also applied pressure to the agencies to act quickly and effectively.”
However, Horn says that not all of requests made by the two groups are logistically feasible in terms of implementation. “Based on the DEC’s plans, some of the Women’s Association and Foundry Action Committee’s demands are logistically impossible to address. As an example, the Committee would like to see a clean-up plan fully engineered for all 220 properties in the next 30 days. The logistics of lab testing, verification, and site design make that time and cost prohibitive.”
He continued, “It is also my understanding it also appears that remediation of at least 220 properties in the next 8 months, which was another demand, is not possible.”
Horn says that prior to receiving the request about making all data bi-lingual for those living in the cleanup zone — the City was taking steps to ensure this problem was remedied.
Horn added, “We had already taken steps to press the DEC to communicate all information in both English and Spanish, to ensure that the Hispanic community received as much clearly understandable information as possible.”
In addition, “We have hired a bilingual community liaison, who will be present at all Council meetings to support the translation needs of affected residents. We have confirmed that the Department of Health will provide free lead screening for individuals concerned about bodily lead levels, and that the DEC will provide free soil testing to any site potentially affected by the former Geneva Foundry.”
The City says they have also made it priority to provide access to nearby, supervised, outdoor spaces for children in the impacted neighborhood. Horn says that their community liaison is working directly with residents to determine what format would best serve them. “We have partnered with the Food Justice Task Force to provide gap funding to support the development of a mobile food pantry, specifically targeted to the Foundry Neighborhood,” he explained.
Horn says beyond that the City has partnered with FoodLink to provide a weekly credit and delivery service for fresh fruits and vegetables to all impacted residents. Additionally, they’ve arranged for free admission to the City’s dog park for families with dogs in the neighborhood.
It won’t be one person, or even one entity digging into these problems, the City Manager explained. “We are prepared to provide labor, materials, and supplies to develop community gardens in areas near the neighborhood identified as convenient to residents, and are grateful for the incredibly kind offer from Jeff Henderson and the Geneva Peeps. That is a site that is under consideration.”
In all, the City contends that they remain committed to supporting the residents of the Foundry neighborhoods. According to Horn, the act of building and developing additional programs to serve those impacted by the foundry contamination is actively taking place.
While some have put both parties at opposing sides of the table — Horn concluded by sharing his gratitude for The Foundry Action Committee and Women’s Assembly. “We are grateful to the Women’s Assembly and Foundry Action Committee for facilitating the conversation and keeping this at the forefront of the public agenda.”