EPA to assess Lunt
The EPA is going to test the site of the former Lunt Silversmith property on Federal Street.
Recorder file photo
Greenfield Mayor William Martin said he has heard rumors that there may be a buyer for the former retail store building, which is currently in Bankruptcy Court.
(Recorder file photo)
GREENFIELD — The federal environmental agency will begin its own contamination assessment of the former Lunt Silversmith property on Federal Street in the spring — and possibly take over cleanup.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get involved and assess how much contamination is on the site and how much has traveled off, and then arrange to clean it up as it did the former Bendix-Repal site on the Laurel Street extension.
Catherine Skiba, spokeswoman for the state DEP, said the state asked the EPA to become involved because the town does not own the property and therefore will not invest a lot of money to clean it up, and the Lunt property is in bankruptcy, so there are not enough funds available to the owner of the site for cleanup.
“It was that simple,” said Skiba.
DEP learned earlier this year that contamination had made its way off the site and into the basements of a couple of homes on Kenwood Street.
Skiba said “negligible” traces of TCE were found on and around the Lunt property and in those basements. She said the levels were well below the “significant risk” level.
She said the EPA will now determine how far the contamination has travelled, how bad it is, and what it will have to do to clean up the property.
Robert Pyers, the town’s economic development director, said the EPA will do on-site and off-site testing and may end up putting a lien on the property if it finds the cleanup is going to be costly.
“The EPA getting involved is very good news,” said Pyers.
A purchase and sale agreement between the town and Lunt expired at the end of March, and while the mayor and Pyers had said at that time that they would like to negotiate a new contract, they said they wouldn’t until the town was clear about the cleanup and what would need to be done.
“We aren’t going to invest a lot more money in the property,” Martin told councilors earlier this year.
The town started an assessment of the property when it signed a lease to purchase with Lunt about three years ago. It originally dug four wells, which also found only “negligible” traces of TCE on the property.
But, when the state required the town do more testing — it dug 17 more wells, each 30 feet deep, which were placed around the perimeter of the property — it found higher traces of the contaminant on the property.
Town officials said the contaminants hadn’t gone deep into the soil, because there was a layer of clay preventing that from happening.
Pyers said he believes the EPA will find that contaminants on and around the Lunt property are not as bad as what was found on the Bendix-Repal property more than a decade ago.
“Bendix was a situation where the plume went all the way down to the Mohawk Trail,” he said.
It took more than 14 years after testing began on the Bendix-Repal property for cleanup to be completed. The EPA completed that cleanup last year.
“We don’t believe that will be the case with Lunt,” said Pyers.
The town had agreed to buy the former Lunt property for $1.5 million, but did not renew its contract with Lunt when it learned that cleanup may be costly.
Pyers has estimated that the cleanup could cost between $600,000 and $800,000. He said cleaning the Bendix-Repal property cost the EPA about $3 million.
Lunt currently owes the town about $500,000 in back taxes. The town plans to “wait and see,” what the bankruptcy court decides and whether the EPA will put a lien on the property, but is hoping it will eventually recover the back taxes.
Greenfield spent $130,000 for its two-year lease with Lunt and another $75,000 for a down payment on the property. It is not clear how much of that will be returned if the town decides not to purchase the property after the cleanup is complete.