Correction: The town does not own the "Jard site." The town owns a 22-acre parcel of land that was once part of the Jard property. The part the town owns is not the contaminated portion being referred to in this article, which has since been corrected.
BENNINGTON -- On Monday the Select Board took the first step toward getting the former Jard site permanently cleared of PCB contamination; however, it will likely be more than a decade before that goal is accomplished.
After hearing presentations from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the board voted to send a letter in support of the Jard site being added to the National Priorities List to Gov. Peter Shumlin. Meghan Cassidy, of the EPA, said the town's letter is necessary for Shumlin to request the site be listed.
The National Priorities List is a list of sites containing hazardous waste that are eligible to receive federal funding for long-term clean up.
The Jard site is land off Bowen Road that was once home to a factory that produced electrical capacitors from 1969 to 1989. It was abandoned for several years and in 2007 the EPA removed 3,700 tons of PCB-contaminated soil and capped the site. PCBs are a type of chemical that does not break down easily and has been linked to human health problems.
Cassidy said the entire process from start to ultimate clean up is likely to take many years, but it will not happen if the proper steps are not taken. She said the state has to be involved because it is likely a 10 percent match to the federal funds will be needed.
She said the state asked the EPA about a year ago to have Jard put on the National Priorities List. With the board's letter of support, she said the plan is to have a request before the governor in April.
"Adding sites to the National Priorities List is really the only way we can provide the resources, both in house folks with technical expertise and obviously the financial resources to get these sites to a situation where they are considered stable for the long-term," Cassidy said.
The site is considered safe right now, said Patricia Coppolino, of the DEC Waste Management and Prevention Division, but unless the underlying contamination is removed, short-term problems are apt to keep cropping up as they have been in past years.
The emergency removal program, Cassidy said, has been put to work on Jard before, but the rules surrounding the use of that program prevent any kind of long-term solution. "They have a limited mission and it is to address more immediate short-term issues. Very rarely are they able to fully and comprehensively address a site," she said.
The Jard site has a long history with the EPA. According to Coppolino, in 1992 the EPA removed 269 55-gallon drums, 461 smaller containers and rejected capacitors, and 179 tons of PCB-contaminated soil and other debris. In 1997 the former Jard build caught fire. That was followed by more soil removal and groundwater testing. In 2011, the state asked the EPA to examine the site more, and a year later two residential wells were sealed.
According to Coppolino, the wetland between Park Street and the Bennington Square Shopping Center has also been impacted by PCBs.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @kwhitcombjr.