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EPA Completes Five Year Review of Pine Street Barge Canal Cleanup

Release Date: 11/29/2006
Contact Information: Jim Murphy, (617)918-1028

Release date: 11/29/2006
(Boston, Mass. - Nov. 29, 2006) – The first “Five Year Review” report of the cleanup work at the Pine Street Barge Canal Superfund site in Burlington, VT has been completed and is available for public review at the local information repositories in Burlington and on EPA’s website. The review confirms that the work done at the site continues to protect public health and the environment except for the ongoing releases of coal tar in a limited area of the subaqueous cap in the canal.

Based on the results of the Five Year Review, EPA concluded that site conditions at the Pine Street Barge Canal are protective of human health and the environment in the short term. In addition to developing and implementing a plan to control and eliminate releases of coal tar, issues related to institutional controls, the current extent of the ongoing compliance monitoring program, and an evaluation of the potential for vapor intrusion will be addressed by EPA and state regulators to ensure long-term protectiveness.

During the Five Year Review, EPA conducted a number of interviews with local officials, and members of the former Pine Street Canal Coordinating Council to obtain their opinion and concerns about the status of the cleanup.

A manufactured gas plant operated at the Pine Street Canal site from 1895 to 1966. The contamination at the site is from coal gasification wastes. In the 1970's, exploratory borings for the proposed Southern Connector highway revealed subsurface contamination. In 1983, the Pine Street Canal site was listed on the Superfund National Priorities List. In 1985, EPA conducted an emergency removal of soil contaminated with coal tar in the wetlands adjacent to the barge canal (Maltex Pond). EPA investigations at the site conducted from 1989 to 1992 revealed extensive coal tar contamination in the sediment and soils in the canal and adjacent wetlands. A remedy to remove the contaminated sediments and place them into a combined disposal facility on site was proposed by EPA in 1992, and withdrawn six months later due to considerable community opposition to the proposal. Additional studies were conducted from 1994-1998 under the auspices of the Pine Street Barge Canal Coordinating Council, which recommended capping the contaminated sediment in place.

EPA adopted the recommendation of the Coordinating Council and issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in 1998 that called for capping the contaminated sediment and soil in the canal and adjacent wetlands to address risk to ecological receptors; long term monitoring; and the imposition of land use restrictions on the site to prevent migration or unacceptable human exposure to contaminants. In February 2000, a Consent Decree was signed. The remedy was implemented in two phases. The first involved the installation of a weir where the canal empties into Lake Champlain. The weir will maintain desired water levels in the canal to prevent future erosion of the subaqueous cap. Construction of the weir was completed in November 2001. The second phase involved capping contaminated soils at the southern end of the site, placing the sand cap over contaminated sediments in the canal and turning basin, making improvements to the stormwater control system, and wetlands restoration. Work began in July 2002, and was completed in March 2003. In June 2003, a breakout of coal tar was discovered in an uncapped area immediately adjacent to, but not in, the canal. During the summer of 2004, the sand cap was extended over a portion of canal’s west bank where coal tar was being released to the ground surface via macropores (e.g., historic cribbing, root system of dead trees, etc). The expanded cap appeared to address the ongoing release of contamination until sheens and globules of coal tar were observed floating on the surface water at the southern end of the canal beginning in spring 2005 and continuing to the present. Environmental controls, such as absorbent booms, keep the contamination from entering Lake Champlain. The precise mechanism for these ongoing releases is not known, and is the subject of ongoing additional investigations. Elements of the remedy also include institutional controls to prohibit potable use of groundwater below the site, institutional controls for certain land-use development such as residential and children's day-care center, site boundary definition to allow for redevelopment of certain adjacent parcels, long-term performance monitoring, and five-year reviews.

More information about cleanup activities at the Pine Street Canal Superfund Site may be found on the EPA New England web site at www.epa.gov/ne/superfund/sites (search for “Pine Street”) or by calling Karen Lumino, Remedial Project Manager, at 617-918-1348. The Five Year Report and additional EPA technical reports and documents are available for public review in the site information repositories located in Burlington Vermont at the Fletcher Free Public Library, 235 College Street, and the University of Vermont, Bailey-Howe Library, Burlington, VT 05401. The public may also review site information at the EPA New England Records Center, One Congress Street, Boston, MA 02114 (617) 918-1440.

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