POWNAL -- An agreement expressing intent to purchase the former Oak Hill School was concluded between a Shaftsbury couple and the Pownal School District in mid-July, but now it appears the sale is still months away.
Hole in tank
The purchase and sale agreement to buy the building for $65,000 was signed by all parties with the intent to close by the end of the July. Shortly after the agreement was signed, though, an underground oil tank was discovered on the property and that pushed back the anticipated closing date. The tank was found to be rusty and contained a hole about the size of a dime. The tank was empty when dug up, but the ground around it was found to contain petroleum.
The contaminated soil has now caused greater complications with the state.
"There was a 500-gallon underground storage tank at the facility. We took it out and there was a hole in it. There was no oil in it. There was no sludge in it. It was buried in clay, which implies (oil) wouldn't go anywhere. There was some dirty clay that they took out and tested and it was ... oil residue," Richard Pembroke, chief financial officer for Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, told the Pownal board Wednesday.
There was some hope that because the tank was surrounded by clay the state would not require any further tests, although earlier this week Pembroke received notice from the Agency of Natural Resources asking for multiple ground samples to be collected by an environmental consultant to determine the severity of the contamination. The tests will require about six borings to be drilled at the site to define the degree and extent of contamination to the soil and any groundwater.
The consultant, Paul Miller, a hydrogeologist who has worked with the district since the tank was discovered, must submit a preliminary work plan and cost estimate by the end of next week, and that plan must be approved by ANR prior to the work. Given the timeline and how long approval will likely take, so Pembroke said the samples are not expected to be collected until November.
Depending on the turnaround time by the state, Pembroke said it likely will not be until December -- if no further contaminated soil is found or other issues arise -- before the property is cleared.
Fortunately, the cost of drilling the test wells is covered by insurance after a $250 deductible.
The potential buyers still expect to purchase the property once all of the issues are resolved. The buyers asked not to be named until the purchase is final so the sale is not jeopardized.
The property, part of which dates back to 1800, most recently housed the Black World War II History Museum. The owner of the museum announced last fall he would be moving, at which time the district decided it did not have a need for the building. Pownal voters gave the district permission to sell the building in March.
Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi