KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- While the Bennington County Regional Commission didn't succeed in getting new Brownfields grant funding this past year, it plans to apply again and is finishing up on some of the projects it began.
In 2010, the BCRC was awarded $356,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency as part of its Brownfields program, which focuses on doing environmental studies on economically viable properties with suspected pollution problems in an effort to revitalize them.
Jim Henderson, project manager for the BCRC, said the Alcaro site in downtown Bennington has had two underground oil tanks removed, an above ground oil tank taken out, and water monitoring wells dug where the tanks were. Soil samples have also been taken near an outdoor exhaust fan. He said once the samples are tested, a corrective action plan can be developed.
Alcaro was a car dealership and is now owned by a mortgage holding company which foreclosed on the business, said Henderson. The completed Brownfields work will essentially allow the owner of the property to accurately tell investors or buyers about the site's environmental history, something most purchasers are interested in, as once a property is bought, so is responsibility for any contamination.
Other sites the grant allowed the BCRC to study included the former Vermont Tissue Co. properties in North Bennington. Known as Vermont Tissue South and Vermont Tissue North, the southern property is owned by Bill Scully, who hopes to use the dam there on the Walloomsac to produce electricity. Henderson said the Brownfields work there is complete and is being considered a success story by the EPA.
The Brownfields grant, Scully said, was for cleanup of the tissue building connected to the dam. He said environmental work has been going on there since the 1990s and when he bought it in 2009, he had a large amount of information on what was there. He said the interior was scraped and scrubbed out, then painted over, and he plans to use it living as space, office space and a work area for the hydro project.
The northern property has a draft corrective action plan that has yet to be finalized, Henderson said. He said there is some soil contamination there, which either has to be trucked off site as a hazardous material or moved to the former slurry lagoons where there is also polluted material, and "capped."
The cap seals it from draining into nearby water sources, he said, and has been used on many sites in other places.
The other site the grant helped fund taking a look at was the Barlow gravel pit off Dean Road in Pownal, which was once a town dump. Henderson said a Phase II study has been done there determining there have been no problems with surrounding groundwater.
A draft plan needs to be finalized, Henderson said, and some personnel changes at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation have slowed that down a bit.
Should the BCRC secure funding in the next round, Henderson said, it would likely put the money into completing projects already begun. Part of the reason these sites were chosen was the BCRC had worked with them in the past on grant projects.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr