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Work Begins Next Week at Pine Street Canal Superfund Site

Release Date: 08/11/2010
Contact Information: Emily Zimmerman, (617) 918-1037

(Boston, Mass. – Aug. 11, 2010) – Repairs on the underwater cap at the Pine Street Canal Superfund Site are scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 16 and run through the end of November. 

The initial cleanup, performed in 2003 and 2004, has been largely effective in preventing contamination that exists beneath the canal from moving into the canal, but oily sheens and globules of coal tar have been observed periodically in a 450-foot long portion of the canal since 2005. Absorbent booms placed across the canal have prevented contamination from entering Lake Champlain while a more permanent solution could be designed and constructed.

In areas where oil and coal tar are seeping out, the existing sand cap will be replaced with a different kind of cap that contains a material that will capture the oil and coal tar before it is released into the canal. Over time, the new cap will fill up and will have to be replaced. To extend the life of the new cap, several passive recovery wells will be installed along the banks of the canal, which will also prevent contamination from migrating into the canal. Oil and coal tar that accumulate in the recovery wells will periodically be removed and shipped off site for treatment or disposal at an approved facility.

Before the new cap can be installed, the uppermost portion of the existing sand cap will have to be removed. As the sand cap is being dredged, people who are using the Burlington Waterfront bike path immediately adjacent to the site may notice a petroleum-like odor. While the odor is not a human health hazard, some may find it unpleasant.

Work on the Pine Street cap will occur between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday. During this time the public can expect to see an increase in truck traffic along Pine Street. At the height of construction, up to 15-18 trucks per day will need access to the Site.

The need for these repairs as well as a conceptual design for the new cap is discussed in EPA’s Explanation of Significant Differences issued in April 2009. The public was given an opportunity to comment on these planned modifications to the remedy in January 2009. Construction and maintenance of the new cap and collection system will be undertaken by a group of Performing Defendants who agreed to clean up the Site in 2000. EPA and VT Department of Environmental Conservation will oversee the project. 

Site Background: A manufactured gas plant operated at the Pine Street Canal site from 1895 to 1966. Operations at the plant included disposal of wastes from the gasification process, including coal tars. Manufactured gas wastes were placed in and migrated to a canal on the site, which had been built in the mid-1800’s to serve lumber yards in the area.

A remedy to remove coal tar and place excavated contaminated sediments into a disposal facility to be constructed on the site was proposed by EPA in 1992, and withdrawn six months later, due to considerable community opposition to the proposal. From 1994-1998, additional studies were conducted by companies responsible for the contamination under the auspices of EPA, the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) and the Pine Street Barge Canal Coordinating Council, a citizen’s advisory group. In 1998, the Coordinating Council recommended constructing a cap over contaminated sediments in the canal and nearby wetlands, and restoring the wetlands, so that ecological risks at the site would be addressed. EPA adopted that recommendation in 1998, and the cap was built in 2003 and 2004.

More information: EPA Cleanup information on Pine Street Canal (http://www.epa.gov/region1/superfund/sites/pinestreet)

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