Bennington mitigates PCBs but owes EPA $175,000
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | August 29,2014
Patrick McArdle / Staff Photo
This fence, seen on Thursday in Bennington, was part of the mitigation effort performed by the town of Bennington to ensure that contaminants found in the area would not pose a public health risk in the future. The EPA has billed the town $175,00 for its own efforts on the project.
BENNINGTON — The town completed a chemical mitigation project this summer near Willow Park but could still owe the federal government $175,000 in the case.
The town is also, however, seeking compensation from the state Agency of Transportation. Town officials say the problem might have been caused by the construction of Route 7 through a landfill in the early 1970s.
The problem was first identified in 2009 when the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation investigated a high concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the duck pond on Park Street.
That investigation led to a look at a former landfill between the Grace Christian School and Willow Park. While there was never an allegation that the PCB contamination presented a health risk, action was taken this summer to prevent the possibility of a problem in the future or the chemical moving to Furnace Brook.
Contaminants were found underground in the soil on the slope of the hill between the school and the park but not on the surface or in the surface water or groundwater.
The source of the contamination that caused the recent concerns remains unclear, but it’s not new. The PCBs are believed to have been in the landfill, which closed in 1968, for more than 50 years.
The mitigation effort completed over the summer, approved and overseen by the state, included building a fence around the area and adding coverings of fabric and stone to what were called “hot spots” where some contamination was found within 12 inches of the surface.
Monitoring wells were also installed at the site. Town Manager Stuart Hurd said a new round of tests of water from the site will likely take place next week.
The work was done over the summer so the crews would not interfere with classes at Grace Christian School.
Assistant Town Manager Dan Monks said EPA officials told town staff they spent $800,000 investigating the site before turning the mitigation over to the state.
Hurd said the mitigation was done by town staff at the town’s expense. However, because Bennington has been identified as a “potentially responsible party” for the contamination, the town has been billed $175,000 by the EPA.
Hurd said that amount, which is based on the EPA’s expenses, is under negotiation.
Monks said town officials believe the state may be responsible for some of the problem because it moved some of the soils in the area while building Route 7.
The recent concerns were raised because at some unspecified point, the contamination appears to have moved. Monks said that might have happened when the highway project relocated about a third of the landfill and laid it back down over the remaining landfill surface.
Hurd and Monks said they had obtained documents resulting from the EPA study of the area that confirmed the contaminants never posed an imminent threat to the public.
Hurd said the town spent about $30,000 on the mitigation effort but the bill will be higher once legal and consulting fees are added.
Last year, a $100,000 reserve fund for the project was created, but Hurd pointed out that wouldn’t cover the $175,000 bill from the EPA.