In 2002, the people of Endicott, NY, discovered they had been living over a plume of toxic chemicals for decades. The main chemical, known as TCE, was traced back to the former IBM plant, which used it as a solvent to clean computer parts. IBM followed the “common industry procedure” of dumping chemical waste down drains and into the groundwater. After years of groundwater treatment, scientists found that the TCE was clinging to the soil underground and wafting up as vapor into the buildings above.
Cleanup involves placing ventilation systems on homes and businesses, drilling monitoring wells, and adding groundwater pumping stations. People wonder if every cancer case or birth defect might be related to the pollution. “The Plume” has changed their worlds. Hundreds of Endicott residents filed a lawsuit in 2008 claiming that IBM negligently exposed them to toxic chemicals, threatening their health and property. IBM, which has spent millions of dollars cleaning up “the Plume,” has denied responsibility, but settled the lawsuit out of court in 2015. As of 2019, the company is still cleaning up the site.