BRIDGEWATER – Blackie’s deli and gas station has been removed, one of the many casualties of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
Kevin Geiger, the senior planner for the Two-Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC), said the parcel will be allowed to return to nature.
“There’s an easement to prevent any buildings from being built on the site,” Geiger said. “Right now, it’s flat. The demolition has taken place. The next phase is to remove some soil from the site, flatten it, and lower it closer to the river. Then we’ll grass it over and plant native shrubs. The site will be covered with greenery.”
One reason for lowering the site closer to the river is to make the river better able to handle future floods, Geiger said.
“By making the site more river friendly, we can avoid future dangers,” he said. “We want to get the land back to its original condition.”
Blackie’s stood on the banks of the North Branch Ottauquechee River, one of the main river’s tributaries. When Irene blew through the area in late August of 2011, floodwater rose high above the river’s banks, trapping Blackie’s two tenants upstairs for a full night before rescue could find them.
“The building used to be on a mound,” Geiger said, “and there’s a culvert underneath. The new configuration gives the river a little more room.”
Some of the soil to be removed is contaminated, Geiger said, but there is no reason for the public to worry.
“There’s mild contamination,” he said. “There is a variety of contaminants, but most of it is petroleum and petrochemical. It’s not affecting the water very much. If it didn’t erode, we wouldn’t bother.”
Also, Geiger said, FEMA rules prohibit the town from buying contaminated property. Ordinarily, the town would take the property over first, and then the work would be done. As it is, owner Paul Tanguay will retain ownership of the property until the work is completed.
The plan now, Geiger said, is to get some hay and mulch down before winter freezes the ground, with the rest of the restoration work to be done in the spring.The total cost of the demolition and restoration will be in the neighborhood of $500,000, he said.
“That covers testing, purchase, cleaning up, and restoring the original land,” he said.
Blackie’s wasn’t the only building to be taken down in the area. A nearby house had to come down, as well.
“If people want to see what the Blackie’s site will look like, they should take a look at where the house used to be,” Geiger said.
Before TRORC stepped in, the property was listed for auction by the Thomas Hirchak Co. of Morrisville, which was going to sell the property as is on Oct. 9, but the sale was canceled after Bridgewater’s flood review board met to discuss the matter on Sept. 30.
Attempts to reach the Hirchak Co. for more information were unsuccessful.
The tenants living upstairs at Blackie’s during the storm made a short video of the floodwater rushing through Bridgewater Corners. It can be seen by visiting http://youtu.be/74xtCI1iWTM.