Town learns about Superfund site (5/13/10)

May 13, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

Residents and town officials came out last week to learn about the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming work at a Superfund site in Williston.


    Image courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to spend the late spring and summer analyzing the area in the map above to determine the extent of a contaminated groundwater plume beneath Commerce Street and South Brownell Road.

Approximately a dozen residents and officials attended an informational meeting last Wednesday evening; two more residents went to a similar meeting the morning of May 6.

In the community room of the Williston Police Department, EPA officials Karen Lumino and Pam Harting-Barrat answered questions about future work at the site, and what the presence of the Commerce Street plume means for residents of the area.

High concentrations of compounds used to clean metals have contaminated groundwater beneath Commerce Street and South Brownell Road. Quebec-based Mitec has been named as the source of at least some of the contamination, and has helped pay for some of the remediation efforts. The state had control of the site until 2005, when the EPA took over the cleanup efforts. Later this spring and into the summer, the EPA plans to continue its study of the area by conducting a geophysical survey and taking samples from more than 20 wells. The agency wants to delineate the extent of the contamination.

Because all buildings in the area use municipal water and sewer rather than well water, the EPA believes there is little risk of health problems. The agency plans to study the possibility of vapor intrusion, and hopes to confirm a state study that showed little risk of vapors causing health problems.

Williston Planning Director Ken Belliveau, who has conversed with the EPA in the past about the site, attended Wednesday’s meeting. He said the EPA’s main piece of advice for anyone looking to build in the contaminated area was to build on top of a slab and create some sort of vapor barrier around the foundation.

Belliveau also said the planning department is questioning whether zoning should be changed in the area. The area is a mix of industrial and residential. Belliveau said he didn’t hear people on Wednesday calling for zoning changes, or claiming to have problems selling property.

“I also wanted to see the extent that folks in the neighborhood had specific questions or concerns from a land use perspective,” Belliveau said. “I didn’t really get any questions from anybody that was there.”

Lumino said other attendees at the Wednesday meeting asked about the hazards of vapor, and the length of time before the EPA develops a remedy.

The two residents who attended Thursday’s meeting live outside the area thought to be contaminated, but wanted to confirm that with the EPA. They also asked about the history of the contamination and risks of health problems.

Harting-Barrat said she told Belliveau that if people looking to buy or build in the area have questions about the Superfund site, they should contact the Board of Health and call the EPA.

“Once people are informed, they’ll make their own decision,” Harting-Barrat said.

Following the work this spring and summer, the EPA will conduct a risk assessment of the Superfund site. If the agency finds health risks, it will conduct a feasibility study to find a remedy. Lumino has said it could take three to five years for the EPA to present an action plan, which could include doing no more work to the site.

Belliveau said the town plans to stay in touch with the EPA throughout the process.

“We’re trying to stay informed as best we can,” Belliveau said.