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East Deerfield Rail Yard to get cleaned up

DEERFIELD — After more than a decade, the East Deerfield Rail Yard on Railroad Avenue is finally getting cleaned up.

By spring, Pan Am Railways, owner of the rail yard, will place a cover system, also known as a soil cap, over the asbestos-impacted soils in the eastern portion of the rail yard site and continue monitoring the soil cap, maintaining at least 20 inches of cover over the area.

The selected remedy is meant to achieve a permanent solution to the longtime contamination and a condition of no significant risk to human health as defined by the state.

The Environmental Resources Management, a consultant for Pan Am Railways, recently presented its Phase IV remedy implementation plan at Deerfield Town Hall. The plan provides details for the design, construction and implementation of the selected remedy.

The clean-up was a long fight for community members, led by an ad-hoc Economic Development Committee who originally pushed for Pan Am to clean up the area.

Lynn Rose of McLelland Farm Road, near the rail yard, has been overseeing all of the work done by Pan Am along with the town’s consultant GeoInsight Inc., the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Board of Selectmen and town staff.

“We are thrilled that the site is in the final stages of being mitigated,” Rose said. “I’m relieved, but I also know as long as there is a railroad, there will always be something to deal with.”

“It’s the final push to clean up. We have had wonderful volunteers,” said Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness. “It was 13 years of really hard work. This is fantastic.”

Off River Road in East Deerfield, the site formerly known as the Lake Asphalt plant is owned by the Pan Am Railways and lies adjacent to the East Deerfield Rail Yard. The site borders an active Pan Am track in the southwestern area of the rail yard.

It is currently inactive and vacant. Previously, the former Lake Asphalt company leased the property from Pan Am for storage and mixing of liquid asphalt products. Before its use by Lake Asphalt, the property was part of the rail yard since the late 1800s.

The property was originally developed with several above-ground storage tanks, a maintenance garage, a boiler and other small outbuildings, according to Pan Am. Currently, there are no longer any tanks, structures or drums.

The property’s former uses led to its contamination, where the old above-ground storage tanks leaked.

The site had been contaminated with historic releases of liquid asphalt, coal and wood ash used as fill across the rail yard, asbestos in the soil and the release of unknown hydrocarbons near the two monitoring wells. The major concern was that the contaminated areas would spread through the groundwater and into surrounding areas.

To address the contamination, Pan Am previously excavated the northern section. The rail road company will now place a top soil and grass over the affected area by the southern part of the site, where asbestos is still in the soil, Lynn Rose explained.

The cover system will require a minimum of 14 inches of clean cover soil and a minimum of six inches of organic topsoil to support vegetation growth. The cover vegetation would also need to be maintained to prevent the erosion of cover soils, including mowing to prevent woody growth.

The cover system will promote proper drainage of precipitation, minimize erosion of the final cover system, isolate wastes from the surrounding environment, according to the draft Phase IV report.

In addition, Pan Am will implement an activity and use limitation, or deed restriction, on the site, restricting future residential use of the site. An activity and use limitation is placed on the entire rail road property as part of Pan Am’s remedial actions. Pan Am will have to record the deed restriction at the Registry of Deeds.

The deed restriction would restrict future use of the property from development as a school or residential use, but it leaves open possible commercial and railroad uses. Currently, the property is zoned for commercial and industrial use.

Between May and June, Pan Am expects to begin construction of the soil cover system to address the asbestos. By July, Pan Am will submit its Phase IV completion report documenting completion of construction to the state.

The public comment period on the draft Phase IV remedy implementation plan is now open until Feb. 5.

Rose said the town-hired consultant, GeoInsight Inc., will evaluate the plan to ensure that any measures implemented at the site cover the affected area and prevent further migration of any contaminants in the soil in the groundwater, storm water and air.

At the end of the comment period, Pan Am will review and incorporate public comments before submitting the final Phase IV report to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

To submit questions, write to Mr. Dana Banks, 1700 Iron Horse Park, Billerica, MA 01862.

The next and final phase involves long-term treatment processes and monitoring to track the cleanup .

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