BENNINGTON — A public comment period is underway on a plan to deposit PFOA-contaminated soils removed during water line construction to a section of the Vermont Route 279 right-of-way.
The state Agency of Natural Resources and the Bennington and North Bennington water systems propose depositing the excess trench soil removed while extending the water lines at a site near Austin Hill Road and the Route 279 right-of-way.
A public hearing on the plan, required by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, has been scheduled for Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bennington Firehouse.
The municipal water systems are being expanded to connect approximately 200 homes or businesses affected by the presence of perfluorooctanoic acid in soils and groundwater, affecting private wells in a contamination zone around former ChemFab Corp. factories in Bennington and North Bennington.
Soil in the areas is presumed to contain PFOA, and excess material leftover after new water lines are installed — estimated at up to 44,000 cubic yards — will be placed in the chosen location, according to the proposal.
John Schmeltzer, a hazardous site manager with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said that normally it would be up to the contractor to propose where to deposit excess soil from the large project, but the state wanted to monitor where and how the PFOA-contaminated soil was deposited.
In this case, he said, the proposed dumping site is an area where the groundwater already is contaminated with PFOA and the residents will be receiving town water through the water line expansions.
He added that PFOA levels in the soils that have been tested were not considered high enough to pose a hazard if anyone came into contact with the material.
There are sloped areas along the highway that are being considered for the fill, he said, although those plans are still being finalized pending a geological assessment. The soils will be stabilized at the deposit site, he said.
An environmental assessment was undertaken to assess a range of options and possible dump sites. Those included taking no action as to the choice of a deposit site, or choosing from alternative options on Ore Bed Road, Bard Road, a site on the Bennington College campus, the former Bennington landfill site, and the William Morse State Airport site.
The preferred site “meets all criteria” outlined in the assessment report, and is able to accommodate the estimated 44,000 cublic yards of excess soil generated by what was bid recently as five separate construction projects in the town and village.
The assessment report notes that the total amount of soil to be deposited at the Route 279/Austin Hill location “is a very small percentage of the total mass of PFOA believed to exist in soils surrounding the disposal location due to the disposition of PFOA. Therefore, the proposed ‘excess’ soil from the water line project would not add any significant mass of PFOA to the area.”
State environmental officials believe the contamination is almost entirely the result of stack emissions from ChemFab factories from 1968 through 2002, when the company operated first on Northside Drive and from 1978 on Route 67A in North Bennington.
ChemFab coated fiberglass and other fabrics with Teflon, baking the fabrics in a process that reached more than 600 degrees in drying areas near the factory roofs and emission stacks.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, which closed the final local factory here two years after purchasing ChemFab in 2000, agreed this summer to provide $20 million to extend the municipal water lines to about half the properties in the state-designated contamination zone. Negotiations involving the ANR and Saint-Gobain are continuing over contamination in those areas roughly to the east of Route 7A and the rail line.
Comments may be presented verbally at the public hearing, or may be submitted in writing until Oct.13 to Kenneth R. Sikora, Environmental Program Manager, Federal Highway Administration, at [email protected]; or to Jeff Ramsey, VTrans Environmental Section, Vermont Agency of Transportation, at [email protected]
Copies of the meeting notice and of the environmental assessment report are available at the Bennington town offices, 205 South St., and online at http://dec.vermont.gov/news/pfoa-env-asses-soil-disp