Contaminants found near former Bennington landfill
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | April 17,2013
BENNINGTON — The town is awaiting word from the Environmental Protection Agency on whether action will be needed to remediate PCBs found at the former landfill near Willow Park that town officials say pose no immediate threat.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd told the Select Board at its April 8 meeting that the discovery had been made while the EPA and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation were investigating a high concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the duck pond on Park Street in 2009.
Those contaminants were believed to have come from what is known locally as the former Jard site. Before closing in the 1980s, Jard manufactured electric transformers.
Hurd said during the investigation, EPA and staff from the state’s DEC were told that there might also be contaminants at the former landfill, which also came from Jard.
Hurd said the information could not have been correct because the landfill closed in 1968, before Jard had begun to operate good but tests were run and some older PCBs were found in the “slope of the landfill.”
While students at Grace Christian School had been using a trail on the slope to reach the playing fields at Willow Park, Hurd said they had been informed of the findings and were no longer using that trail. The town has blocked it off and has considered covering it over with an impermeable material, Hurd said.
The investigation found that groundwater in the area is not contaminated.
Hurd said he was telling the board about the contaminant because the town was anticipating a letter from the EPA, which would request a proposal on how the town might take action to mitigate the potential risk.
“They’ve assured us that this is relatively minor when it comes to pollution from a landfill but we will have to deal with the fact that EPA is the lead (agency) in this. Whatever proposal ultimately comes forward, it would be the town and potentially the state of Vermont that’s involved because the state owns the land of the highway” Hurd said.
Because the slope is heavily vegetated and mostly difficult for people to navigate, Hurd said the town may be able to mitigate the problem just by blocking off the access.
On Tuesday, Douglas Gutro, a government and community relations team leader for the EPA, said the letter requesting a remediation proposal had not yet been sent to the town.
Gutro also provided an update into the investigation of PCB’s found at the duck pond. Investigators have met with homeowners in the Park Street area over the last few weeks and obtained access agreements so they can determine whether or not contaminants are present.
“The whole purpose of this undertaking is to determine whether or not the site is suitable to be scored for the national priorities list and assuming that data comes back, it could then be eligible for long-term funding for action by EPA to investigate and clean up the site,” he said.
According to Gutro, discussions between the town and the EPA about whether there might be federal funding available for the work began over the summer, but now the field investigations are underway.