Pownal landfill remediation project estimated at $750,000

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POWNAL — The town's engineering firm estimates that Pownal will have to spend about $750,000 to address a town landfill that was improperly capped, officials say.

The figure comes from The Johnson Company, the engineering firm the town hired earlier this year to determine what needs to be done with the Maple Grove Road site.

The $750,000 estimate encompasses all costs, including planning and investigative work. The project is split into three parts: planning, final design and construction.

The town has applied for revolving, no-interest loan through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for a Phase II study and any needed remediation of the landfill. Phase II calls for drilling and taking samples of water and materials in and around the landfill.

The town is seeking to have the full cost covered by the revolving loan. But that $750,000 estimate isn't a firm one, said Michael Walker, town administrator.

"By its nature, they have to do testing and engineering studies to determine the depth and breadth of the contamination," he said. "It's a best estimated guess, from people who have done the job before."

In an email, Walker said he had no idea what the terms or conditions of the loan would be.

Per the Department of Environmental Conservation, the town will still have to complete whatever remediation work is necessary, regardless of whether they get the loan. "We're mandated to fix it," Walker said.

He said he doesn't know how the town would pay the costs if they don't receive the revolving loan.

"That would be speculating," he said. "Right now, we seem to be on the right path to acquiring these funds."

The Select Board would have to approve the use of the revolving loan, if it is awarded. Walker said he has "no idea" when the loan decision would be made.

The loan would "absolutely" impact the town budget, Walker previously told the Banner. "We're going to have to pay it back," he said. The loan is also awarded in separate amounts each year — the town would not receive all of the funding at once.

"This is evaluated yearly," Walker said. Even if the town receives revolving loan funding, it's likely officials would have to pay initial costs for the first task of Phase II before the loan funding came through.

"I always call it like a caterpillar effect," Walker said. "One portion moves before the other. The company starts working — they want to get paid."

In that case, the town would have to pay that money — $6,877 in initial outlay for Phase II's first task — on their own, and then use the revolving loan to pay back that expense.

Walker said he and the town treasurer have casually discussed how that initial outlay would be paid until the loan came through, but haven't come to a conclusion.

That spending would also have to be approved by the Select Board.

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The first task of Phase II involves walking the site, reviewing documentation and developing the investigation going forward, Walker said.

Earlier this month, Walker informed the Select Board that the service agreement on the planning phase of the project had to be modified to include items the town had thought would be part of the construction phase, like some testing and data retrieval.

"It's not things that were left out — it's repositioning," Walker said at an April 4 Select Board meeting.

Walker said he has received the modified service agreement for the project.

Because of the needed changes, the original $10,000 estimate for planning is now going to be upwards of $300,000, he said.

Right now, there's no timeline for the project, Walker told the Banner Wednesday.

"Unless you know what you have to do, it's very difficult to plan on when you do it," he said.

Possible problems with the landfill emerged after Green Lantern Solar, of Waterbury, expressed interest in installing an array at the landfill site.

"When we walked the property, it was blatantly obvious that it was not covered properly," Walker previously told the Banner. The leading edge of the landfill even had trash visible, he said.

"Just based on that, we were told that we had to do a Phase II," he previously told the Banner.

Because the site is a landfill, the state required that it have a Phase I, a walk-through of the site to look for issues that might merit further evaluation, Walker said. That was done last summer. The landfill, informally known as West Landfill, was covered sometime around the 1980s or 1990s, Walker said.

"Back then, there was a lot less technical knowledge on how to [properly] cover landfills," Walker previously told the Banner.

Besides the visible trash, there's also a lack of records for the landfill that has caused concern, Walker said.

And in the past, companies operating in town used materials that are now considered dangerous, and those materials were put in the landfill, he said.

"You put two and two together," he said.

The town initially applied for a brownfields grant through the state, but that program requires that whichever entity caused the problem pay for it — in this case, the town.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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