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The former General Motors site in Massena. Photo: RACER Trust
The former General Motors site in Massena. Photo: RACER Trust

Massena's former GM site in limbo until cleanup completed

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The federal trust in charge of redeveloping General Motors' property in Massena says its clean-up is on schedule. The land by the St. Lawrence River is a Superfund site because GM dumped tons of cancer-causing PCB oil there for decades. As David Sommerstein reports, it's not easy to sell real estate that's still contaminated.

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David Sommerstein
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When the federal government bailed out General Motors in 2009, it became owner of GM’s worst assets. A trust, called RACER, was set up to clean and redevelop more than 60 abandoned and ex-factory sites nationwide.

The biggest cleanup in the country is here in Massena, where crews are removing 100,000 tons of PCB-laced concrete and soil.

The good news is RACER says the work is on target for completion in 2016.

The bad news is it’s not easy to sell one of America’s most toxic industrial sites.

RASHER: It is a listed Superfund site.

Bruce Rasher is RACER’s guy to convince some company - or companies – that the former GM site is for them.

RASHER: It is always a challenge to help the market get over their perceived stigma about a site of environmental contamination.

But believe it or not, Rasher’s optimistic. He says the site’s easy access to cheap power, a trained workforce, a good rail line, and proximity to Canada are all selling points. As is the growth of the nearby Akwesasne Mohawk casino.

RASHER: Which to them would be considered an amenity due to the amount of traffic that the casino generates.

Rasher’s showed off the site to potential commercial developers seeking synergy with the casino, as well as to dozens of industrial firms in Canada and the U.S. He’s published profiles in trade magazines.

RASHER: RACER will continue these efforts until we’re successful in securing a qualified buyer to purchase and develop the site.

But it’s highly unlikely, Rasher says, that anyone’s going to come in with an actual offer until the finish line for the environmental cleanup is in sight.

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