ST. JOHNSBURY - Industrial pollution in the Bay Street area may be subject to a closer look.
Selectmen are set to apply for a competitive $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study environmental conditions in that area as well as other parts of town. Money would be available next summer.
The study is a necessary step for remediation and Bay Street development, Joel Schwartz, St. Johnsbury Economic Development director said Wednesday.
"We're really not going to accomplish anything down there until we deal with the environmental issues," he said. "This has always been an issue and now it's finally being addressed."
The proposed study would evaluate the area as a whole, unlike past studies that concentrated on individual properties, Schwartz said.
The town is already aware of petroleum contamination on Bay Street, but officials want to know if other problems exist, he said.
"The place doesn't look good, but it may not be as bad as it looks," Schwartz said. "We do this study with the intent of looking at properties that could be further developed for the benefit of the community."
The grant would also provide for the study of potentially contaminated properties beyond Bay Street, Schwartz said. He did not say which ones because the owners have not been contacted.
St. Johnsbury officials plan to conduct the study in conjunction with Northeastern Vermont Development Association which administers several hundred thousand dollars in regional EPA grants for the study of contaminated properties.NVDA planner Laurie Zilbauer suggested selectmen apply for their own EPA grant because it means more money to investigate St. Johnsbury properties than regional grants can provide.
Selectmen, who met with Zilbauer last week, plan to contract with NVDA for administering the St. Johnsbury grant if it happens. Program management costs would cover the grant match requirement, Zilbauer said.
Past Bay Street Findings
Bay Street is home to a handful of state-registered hazardous wastes sites, contaminated ground water, underground contaminant plumes, and asbestos in the rail yard, according to studies of the former Northern Petroleum bulk fuel storage facility, which is now operated by Dead River and the rail yard.
The 2005 Northern Petroleum study was designed to evaluate petroleum pollution. It included soil and ground water analysis, and the installation of monitoring wells.
"The site, and limited portions of adjacent properties to the east and west have been impacted by two or more petroleum contaminants including number-two fuel oil, gasoline, and possibly a third unidentified oil," according to the study. "Contaminant distribution and historical information indicated the contamination likely originated from multiple sources. No obvious on-site sources, such as a leaking storage tank or spills, have been documented."
The petroleum pollution exceeds Vermont Ground water Enforcement Standards, and includes two underground plumes, it states.
Possible contributors include the bulk fuel storage facility, the rail yard, former businesses in the area that used underground fuel storage tanks, and fuel spills, according to the study.
The investigation was conducted by Waterbury-based Environmental Services with cooperation from property owner George Pratt. It was paid for by the state's petroleum clean-up fund, minus a $10,000 deductible.
The rail yard study was conducted by Tewhey Associates in South Portland, Maine, on behalf of the yard's former owner, Canadian Pacific Railway. The study was finalized in 1998, identifying petroleum pollution and contaminated ground water.
Also, in 2005 KD Associates of Montpelier sampled rail yard soil for asbestos at the request of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. The study found surface asbestos covering much of the rail yard.
"Additionally, three areas of fine, gray soil with a significant asbestos fiber concentration were identified at and below the ground service," it states.
Prior to the KD study, Drumlin Environmental of Portland, Maine, sampled soil in 2002 that revealed the presence of asbestos. The suspected source is the Thetford Mine in Quebec, according to information from the state.
Canadian Pacific owned the rail yard property from 1964 to 1996 when it sold it to Vermont Railroad Company.