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EPA Selects a Cleanup Plan for The Pownal Tannery Superfund Site Lagoon Area

Release Date: 10/03/2002
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1064

Boston– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced an $8.8 million cleanup plan for the 18-acre lagoon area of the Pownal Tannery Superfund site in Pownal, Vermont. The decision is issued in a formal document called a Record of Decision. The cleanup of the lagoon area is the third and final, major cleanup action EPA will take at the site. EPA's primary goal is to prevent human contact with and eliminate erosion of contaminated soils from an area of former waste lagoons into the Hoosic River.

    EPA's plan includes the following components:
      • consolidation of contaminated sludge into three of five lagoons and construction of a low permeability landfill cover;
      • restoration of the bank of the Hoosic River adjacent to the lagoon area;
      • long-term monitoring of groundwater and sediment;
      • long-term operation and maintenance of the lagoon landfill cover by the state of Vermont;
      • establishment of institutional controls (such as deed restrictions) to prevent water consumption from the lagoon and landfill areas, and to prevent excavation of lagoon sludge;
      • annual site inspection of the lagoon landfill cover and surrounding area for violations of the restrictions;
      • ongoing operation and maintenance at the tannery landfill, located on another area of the site, by the State of Vermont;
      • review of the remedy at a minimum of every five years, to determine if it is still working.
    "Our cleanup is being done with the community's interest for the site's future in mind." said Robert W. Varney, EPA New England regional administrator. "This plan moves us closer to getting the property back into active use." Reuse studies for the site are currently underway by the town which in 1999 received a $100,000 Superfund redevelopment grant from EPA.

    "I'm pleased that the Department of Environmental Conservation has been able to work so closely with the community and EPA to transform this hazardous site into a community asset," said Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Christopher Recchia.

    Nelson Brownell, Pownal Selectman said: "This is a good decision for Pownal and allows us to keep our wastewater treatment facility project moving forward."

    EPA's Superfund program will pay for ninety percent of the cleanup costs while the remaining ten percent will be funded by the state. Once the remedy is in place, Vermont will bear one hundred percent of costs associated with operation and maintenance.

    EPA expects to begin this work in the spring of 2003.

    During Remedial Investigations of the lagoon area performed in 2001-2002, EPA examined the nature and extent of contamination in the soils, groundwater, surface water and sediments of the lagoon area. Analysis of the lagoon soils revealed elevated levels of lead, arsenic, chromium, pentachlorophenol (PCP) and dioxin. Using the data collected, EPA conducted a human health risk assessment which concluded that, due to the elevated presence of these contaminants, there was an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment and that cleanup action was needed. EPA then conducted a feasibility study to examine potential cleanup options.

    This past summer, EPA held a public information meeting and hearing in Pownal on the proposed cleanup plan and other cleanup alternatives for the lagoon area. EPA also took public comment during the hearing and 30-day public comment period. A copy of EPA's Record of Decision and response to public comments on the lagoon cleanup will be made available in the information repository at the Solomon Wright Public Library in Pownal.

    The Pownal Tannery specialized in chrome tanning of sheepskins. Tannery wastes, including chromium a toxic metal, were dumped into large, open, unlined lagoons near the tannery building. Dyes and waste were also discharged into the Hoosic River which flows past the site. The tannery operated from 1937 to 1987 when its owners filed for bankruptcy.

    In 1993, EPA's emergency removal team conducted a preliminary site cleanup removing several barrels of oils and solvents from the building. EPA site investigations revealed widespread contamination to the primary and adjacent lagoons. In 1999, the EPA decontaminated, demolished and removed the old tannery building. In November 2000, the EPA constructed a multi-layer cap over the former tannery landfill. Cleanup of the Pownal Tannery lagoon area is the final phase of the tannery cleanup.