BENNINGTON — Following a brief public hearing, the Select Board on Monday voted to discontinue a town right-of-way along a section of Furnace Brook that was used unofficially decades ago to dump construction, motor vehicle, industrial and other solid waste materials.
Legal discontinuance of the narrow woods road off Furnace Brook Road was proposed as part of an agreement with federal Environmental Protection Agency and state officials to restrict access for vehicles and pedestrians to the contaminated areas.
Earlier Monday, Assistant Town Manager and Planning Director Daniel Monks led three board members on a site visit to the wooded area to point out the half buried motor vehicle tires, auto body parts, 55-gallon drums; scrap metal, and refuse debris such as cans and broken glass along a stretch of a few hundred yards.
Plans for remediating the site, he said, include tree cutting and covering the dumping areas with clean fill extracted as part of ongoing work to extend water lines to properties with PFOA contamination of private wells. The covering will include material to hold the earth in place, he said.
The dumping site dates back more than 50 years, officials have said, and the property has since been subdivided and is under new ownership.
The overall goal, Town Manager Stuart Hurd told the board, is to “minimized access to vehicles and pedestrians” in an area where there are several off-road vehicle and other trails.
The principal environmental concern is to avoid contact with lead contamination in some of the dumped material, he said.
In answer to a question from board member Jeanne Conner, he said the lead does not migrate easily into the environment but is a potential hazard through direct contact, as is now possible because of its half buried state.
An environmental cleanup and dump capping process is expected to begin in the spring, with the town providing labor and equipment and the state agreeing to pick up planning and related costs, Hurd said.
The current property owner, who purchased a parcel in the area well after the era of the dump site, also is expected to provide some in-kind assistance for the remediation, Monks said. Although the site was never a municipal dump, the town is a potentially responsible party for its remediation because what was called Town Highway 85, or unofficially Dump Road, passed through it, Hurd said, and the Vermont Agency of Transportation is involved because it touches on land acquired land for the Route 279 bypass segment running from Route 9 toward Route 7.
Hurd commended Monks, town Department of Public Works Director R.J. Jolly and other town staff members for working with the EPA, VTrans, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation “to get this thing to a conclusion.”
At this time, Hurd said, the town apparently won’t have other costs, although that won’t be known until the project is set to begin next year.
A contractor was hired by the EPA in June 2018 to begin assessing the old dumping site for hazardous materials and to decide whether remediation work was required.
In 2019, the EPA issued a memorandum stating that the dump is “typical of unpermitted dumpsites across the county, and with some exceptions, removing the dump (excavating, transportation and disposal) or encapsulating the areas of concern is cost prohibitive. The goal of this removal action is not to remove or completely isolate the dump, but to limit access and greatly reduce the threats to public health and the environment.”
Referring to contamination the EPA had found, a report stated that soil and water testing “has documented a number of contaminants detected, including SVOCs (semi-volatile organic compounds), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and assorted heavy metals above expected background concentrations; however, lead is the main contaminant of concern.”
Concerning the nearby brook, the report states, “surface water and sediment samples were collected from Furnace Brook in an attempt to determine if the dump is having an adverse effect on the waterway, which it does not appear to be.”
No residents called into the board’s videoconference meeting Monday during the public hearing to discontinue the road.