NYSDEC Site #: C828190


The portion of the former Vacuum Oil Refinery site that has undergone environmental investigation by the City of Rochester consists of eight parcels of land all owned by the City of Rochester totaling approximately 15.4 acres (the “Site”).  The Site is located south of Flint Street, east of Exchange Street and is located near the western bank of the Genesee River across from the University of Rochester.  The Site is also located within the designated Vacuum Oil - South Genesee River Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA).  The Site is currently undeveloped vacant land except for an asphalt-paved public recreational trail that runs through the eastern side of the Site from north to south, and a small grassy area that is located east of the trail along the Genesee River. The remainder of the Site is wooded and contains some remnants of the former Vacuum Oil Refinery facility and former railroad operations and infrastructure. The Site Map illustrates the specific parcels and boundaries of the City BCP Site, as well as the larger former Vacuum Oil Refinery footprint.  

Site Map

 Vacuum Oil BCP Project Area Map

History & Previous Studies

The majority of the Site was part of the former Vacuum Oil refinery and bulk oil storage and oil blending facility which operated from about 1866 to 1930 on 30 to 40 acres of land east of Exchange Street and both north and south of Flint Street.  Other historical uses included railroads and canals for the shipment of crude oil and finished petroleum products. The Vacuum Oil Company was a predecessor of ExxonMobil Corporation. In 1989, a tar-like substance was encountered on a property owned by New York State located immediately south of the Site.  NYSDEC excavated and properly disposed of the tar off-site.   In 1990, the City of Rochester prepared a report that describes property and traces the history of the Vacuum Oil Company.  In 2001, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) completed an investigation of a 24-acre portion of the former Vacuum Oil facility south of Flint Street.   In 2005 and 2009 ExxonMobil evaluated historical and current site conditions, and completed a subsurface environmental investigation on a portion of the Site.   In 2012 a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment report was prepared on behalf of the City of Rochester.  Based on these previous studies and investigations, soil and groundwater on portions of the Site are contaminated primarily with volatile organic compounds or “VOCs”, semi-VOCs, metals and other contaminants.

City of Rochester NYSDEC BCP Vacuum Oil Remedial Investigation Project

The City of Rochester applied and was accepted into the Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) in April 2015 as a “Volunteer” under the BCP.   Under an approved work plan, a comprehensive BCP Remedial Investigation was performed by Ramboll on behalf of the City of Rochester, with technical oversight by both the NYSDEC and the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).  The investigation included test pits, test borings, installation of both overburden and bedrock monitoring wells, soil and groundwater sampling and analysis, and limited soil vapor sampling and analysis.  The Remedial Investigation defined the approximate nature and extent of soil and groundwater contamination at the Site, and evaluated the potential for contaminants to migrate off-site.  All field activities associated with the environmental investigation of the Site are complete.  In June 2019 a revised Draft Remedial Investigation report that summarizes the findings and results was submitted to the NYSDEC for review and was approved in November 2019.

Remedial Actions

 A draft Remedial Alternatives Analysis Report (RAAR), which identifies, evaluates, and details remedial alternatives to address contamination at the Site, was submitted to the NYSDEC and NYSDOH for approval in December 2021.  The draft RAAR has been tentatively approved and a 45-day public comment period will be open from July 26, 2023 through September 8, 2023. 

The selected remedy includes the following remedial elements:

  • Remedial Design
  • Removal of remaining remnants of structures and the existing bike trail
  • Clearing and grubbing of heavy vegetation (i.e., organic debris)
  • Site-wide grading
  • Removal Actions
    • Targeted excavation of soil exhibiting indicators of potential soil impacts
    • backfill and site restoration
  • Containment Actions
    • Two (2) feet or more of clean soil cover over approximately 12.6 acres of surface area with concentrations exceeding Restricted-Residential SCOs.
    • Asphalt cover over approximately 1.0 acre (1,800 linear ft) of area identified as future public roadway in the BOA Master Plan.
    • A demarcation layer will be installed below the engineered soil and asphalt covers to serve as a boundary between the cover system and potential soil impacts.
    • In anticipate of Site redevelopment, approximately 1,800 linear ft of clean utility corridors will be established and are assumed to align with the future asphalt public roadway.
  • Institutional Controls
    • Implementation of an environmental easement that would restrict intrusive activities and future land use to restricted residential and restrict use of groundwater as a potable source.
    • Rezoning consistent with the intended and reasonably anticipated future use based on the planned redevelopment (i.e., restricted-residential use).
    • Periodic Site reviews
    • Development and implementation of a Site Management Plan, including provisions for soil/cap management, limiting exposure to soil and groundwater and soil vapor during site redevelopment and long-term monitoring.
    • Existing monitoring wells will be decommissioned, as needed, in accordance with NYSDEC regulations.
  • Disposal Actions
    • Off-site disposal of approximately 1,030 tons of organic debris
    • Off-site disposal of approximately 1,100 tons of construction and demolition debris
    • Off-site disposal of approximately 32,500 CY (55,300 tons) of soil as non-hazardous regulated waste
  • Wetland Mitigation
    • Based on recommendations documented in the Vacuum Oil BOA Supplemental, Grading, Utilities and Wetland Mitigation Report (Bergmann 2019b), approximately 0.44 acres of compensatory wetland will be established via purchase of off-site wetland mitigation wetland credits through Duck Unlimited.
  • Groundwater monitoring will be conducted for at least five years, or as required by the NYSDEC, to evaluate the continued effectiveness of the remedy.

Public Meeting

A public meeting, to discuss the elements of the selected remedy, will be held on August 16, 2023 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., at the Willie Walker Lightfoot R-Center for Equity and Justice located at 271 Flint Street.

Further Information

Further information including approved work plans and final reports regarding the City’s Vacuum Oil Brownfield Cleanup Program project can be found at the project document repository located at the Phillis Wheatley Community Library (33 Dr. Samuel McCree Way), or by contacting the NYSDEC Region 8 Project Manager, Charlotte Theobald (phone: 585-226-5354) or via e-mail at

If you have any questions regarding the Vacuum Oil Site please contact 

Jane MH Forbes, Senior Environmental Specialist
Phone: 585-428-7892


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