Wednesday January 9, 2013

WILMINGTON -- Deerfield Valley Transit Association is working on finalizing its plans for making its home in Wilmington, but first it needs to clean up the site.

"It isn't that we're sitting on top of a toxic waste dump or on a solid waste dump," DVTA General Manager Randy Schoonmaker told the Reformer last week.

The plan is to develop the property at 45 Mill St. into a new transit facility for DVTA offices, garage and driver facilities, but it requires Brownfield remediation.

The DVTA has gone through the Windham Regional Commission, which has a Brownfield program that helps provide expertise on soil contamination and gives guidance. It has an intensive working knowledge of policy.

The WRC also has access to remediation funding.

"We're still determining how much it is going to cost to remediate. We'll know soon. When we do, we'll come up with a financial plan and go to them," Schoonmaker said.

A corrective action plan has been created with the Department of Environmental Conservation, which works with the Environmental Protection Agency, to remediate issues with the soil on the site. Public review of the plan began on Dec. 21.

A public meeting was held on Dec. 11 with adjoining property owners to explain the findings from the studies. It was held voluntarily by the DVTA.

"We wanted to find out before this process, whether there were any community concerns," Schoonmaker said.

The association posted legal notices and sent out notifications to adjoining property owners but no one attended.

The state will hold its own public hearing on Jan. 9. It will cover the findings from the studies but will also include the corrective action plan. This meeting is required by the state.

"On Jan. 11, based on public input and decisions, they will finalize and approve the plan and we'll be ready to move forward," Schoonmaker said.

The remediation process calls for the DVTA to cap all soils, by either putting a building on top with concrete or put pavement over the soil. The association could also put fabric and four inches of soil over the area, then seed it.

"The plan says, ‘Here's the studies and here's what you got to do,'" said Schoonmaker.

The regular contractor is supposed to do grading, paving and the foundation poring, which Schoonmaker hopes will begin in April and the DVTA will move in by December.

"It's going to take about nine months to build, so we'll see if we can get it done in that time," he said.

The DVTA is a public transportation provider that has buses throughout the Deerfield Valley that travel as far as Bennington and Brattleboro. It has been in business since 1996.

The DVTA leased the site in 2000 and then bought it in 2004. The property is 82,000 square feet. DVTA's current office at Dover will close once the construction on the site is complete.

"It (the site) had an old factory on it. It had 100 years of history of manufacturing all types of things like broom handles, bread and ammunition boxes," Schoonmaker said.

Motorcycles were also assembled there, and it was a Barnboard facility in the 1970s. Afterwards, the place went dormant but then the site was used as a lumberyard for a couple years.

"Then it was leased out to a bunch of little businesses, including us. We bought it in 2004 with the idea that we wanted to have offices in Dover and a garage in Wilmington, so we're only seven miles apart," said Schoonmaker.

The DVTA looked for grants to build a facility and in 2010, it got grants with help from U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who secured a $1 million grant for planning, demolition and permitting for the project.

"We then got our own grant in 2012 and decided we were going to build a $4 million office, garage space and driver facilities," Schoonmaker said.

The additional funds came from a $3 million Federal Transit Administration grant.

But getting to the point of constructing the new facilities requires the DVTA to clean up the site.

It is using a corrective action plan which has been created after several reviews over the years that confirmed soil contamination on the site.

Starting in 1996, the town of Wilmington commissioned a series of environmental reviews and assessments of the site.

"There was debris everywhere as a function of 100 years of development. The first factory started in 1915," said Schoonmaker.

In 2003, the site was looked at again, and small amounts of arsenic were found. At the time, the amount was below standards that would make the site unacceptable.

DVTA bought the facility in 2004 for $185,000.

"We started cleaning up the site. We got rid of all the asbestos and barrels of paint and chemicals. And then the summer of 2010 was one of our earmarks. We tore down 60,000 square feet of the building," said Schoonmaker.

There is 22,000 square feet of the building still left that the DVTA is still using.

"The idea is to tear most of that down after we move into our new building. We have 9.5 acres down there," said Schoonmaker.

The Vermont DEC then decided that more soil tests were necessary because standards had gotten stricter since 2003.

"So we spent the summer and fall doing tests and found that our site had higher-than-acceptable levels of PAHs," said Schoonmaker.

PAHs are pollutants that can be found in the atmosphere and are known as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.

Arsenic was found again in the soil, which Schoonmaker says is "naturally prevalent in all Vermont soil."

Because the location is a Brownfield site, the DVTA is using a Brownfield remediation program. Schoonmaker said that Brownfield has been "extremely helpful in getting us the technicians, testing, studies and consultants. They're also going to help provide remediation funding."

He said that this clean-up process could not have been done without the help from Brownfield.

"There is no danger or harm and there never has been. There's very moderate levels. This is a very standard procedure," said Schoonmaker.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.