More testing for Lunt property

State regs change could hurt plans

Recorder/Paul Franz
Houses on Kenwood Street can be seen in the neighborhood of the Lunt Property buildings.

Recorder/Paul Franz Houses on Kenwood Street can be seen in the neighborhood of the Lunt Property buildings.

GREENFIELD — Contamination that has made its way off of the former Lunt Silversmith site on Federal Street and into the basements of a couple of homes on Kenwood Street has prompted the state attorney general and Department of Environmental Protection to ask for more testing to see how far the plume of waste industrial solvent has traveled.

The purchase and sale agreement between the town and Lunt expired at the end of March, and the town had hoped to negotiate a new contract, but additional testing on and off the site could put a temporary crimp in those plans.

“TCE (trichloroethylene), a solvent used to clean metal, has been found in the air of two homes’ basements close to Lunt on Kenwood Street,” said Robert Pyers, the town’s economic development director. “The attorney general and DEP want us to do further testing before deciding whether to issue the town a covenant — and that’s the only way we are going to buy the property.”

The covenant Pyers refers to would protect the town, if it bought the property and cleaned it up, from being sued by someone for contamination that has migrated off the site and onto their property.

Pyers said the attorney general typically does not issue a covenant if there is no contamination found off of a site, because there would be no reason to do so. Also, he said the attorney general typically does not issue a covenant if there is a lot of contamination found migrating off of a site.

Pyers said based on all of the testing that has been done to date, town officials do not believe a lot of contamination has left the site.

The town started by digging four wells, which found only “negligible” traces of TCE at the Lunt property.

When the town was required to do more testing, it dug 17 more wells, each 30 feet deep, which are placed around the perimeter of the property, and that is when it found higher traces of the contaminant.

Pyers said it appears contamination hasn’t gone any deeper, because there is a layer of clay preventing it from doing so.

Still, Pyers said, the most that has been found is 5 parts per million (ppm) of TCE. Currently, the limit, according to DEP regulations, is 30 ppm, though that would change to 5 ppm if its new proposed regulations are passed.

According to DEP records, the amount of contamination found in the two basements does not pose a “significant risk.”

Pyers said contamination on and beyond the Bendix property on the Laurel Street extension was “much worse” than what has been found at the Lunt site.

“Bendix is a situation where the plume went all the way down to the Mohawk Trail,” he said. “It has been more than 14 years since testing began, contamination was found, and cleanup happened. We don’t believe the plume at Lunt has traveled that far or that contamination is near as bad.”

Bendix wells are still being monitored and probably will be for some time, according to the town.

“We don’t believe that will happen at Lunt,” said Pyers. “We have tested houses around the Lunt property and found nothing, except in those two basements.”

Pyers said at this point, the town is talking with DEP, owners of the two contaminated homes, Lunt and with the federal court handling the silversmith’s bankruptcy, but he is not sure what will happen.

“If we don’t buy Lunt, its owners will be responsible for cleaning up the property,” said Pyers. “DEP will require it be cleaned up.”

He said if the town does not buy the property, it will be a “wait and see” situation, because after Lunt pays Greenfield the back real estate taxes of $500,000 that it owes, and then pays whatever creditors the court requires, there may not be a lot left for cleanup.

The town had agreed to buy the property for $1.5 million, but only if it received the covenant from the attorney general. Greenfield spent $130,000 for a two-year lease-to-own agreement and another $75,000 for the down payment on the property. It is not yet clear how much of that will be returned if the town decides not to buy the property.

The Bankruptcy Court is handling the sale of the property, and currently, Lunt has a “no trespass” order on the property, including, most recently, the ball fields behind the factory. That means the town has to do all of the testing off of the site at this point.

Pyers said he doesn’t know what will happen if the town decides not to buy the property.

Mayor William Martin said early in negotiations with Lunt that the town would clean the property, one way or another, but he could not be reached on Tuesday to see if he still feels that way.

Pyers said if the town doesn’t find a lot more contamination, it will cost about $600,000 to $800,000 to clean up the Lunt property and the small amount of contamination found off site.

He said cleaning up the Bendix property cost between $3 million and $3.5 million.

“There are grants available to the town right now, so it would be great if we could all figure this out,” said Pyers. “The longer we wait, the better the chance is that the grants won’t be there.”

The town is currently working with O’Reilly, Talbot and Okun Associates, an environmental firm in Springfield, which is doing the testing.

Pyers said the town has until summer to do all of the testing and send the results to the attorney general and DEP.

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