Dry cleaning solvent from the former Fillipo Dry Cleaners on
Woodstock Avenue is migrating through the soil toward a residential
neighborhood, creating what state officials are considering an
"environmental emergency." The Vermont Department of Environmental
Conservation convinced the state legislature to pay for a
remediation project that is more than 10 times larger than the
statutory cap on this kind of project. Although state law calls for
a cut-off at $100,000 for this sort of clean-up, the legislators
agreed to a $1.2 million price tag.
The traveling chemical is a plume of tetracholoroethylene (also
known as perchloroethylene or PCE), not only a dry-cleaning solvent
but also a known human carcinogen that seems headed toward a nearby
residential neighborhood. The chemical is already found in an
adjacent lot. Testing will assess how far it has traveled.
If cleanup isn't completed inside 12 months, the chemical may
migrate through two adjacent Harrington Avenue lots to the
residential neighborhood, according to George Desch, head of the
Waste Management and Prevention Division of the Department of
Environmental Conservation. If the groundwater in the Harrington
Street neighborhood were to become contaminated, the PCE could
enter residences' indoor air and become a public health hazard.
Brownfields specialist Matthew Becker, directing the cleanup,
outlined the steps it will take, beginning with a two-foot-wide,
20-foot-deep trench, from which contaminated soil and water are
removed. The trench then is filled with iron filings which react
with and purify contaminated water, but do not bond with it.
Contaminated groundwater is to be removed and stored, so that it
can be run through the filing-filled trench and purified. A second
phase of the project calls for removing the source of the
contamination, the soil beneath the building footprint, and storing
it in a special landfill.
Need for the remediation would not have been so urgent had the
property owner not torn down the building that housed the dry
cleaning company, anticipating redeveloping the site in the near
future, a future that didn't occur. When John Ruggiero had the
structure removed from and its quarter-acre parcel, the site was
exposed to rainwater, which washed the PCE into lower soil layers
and apparently speeding up its travel to the neighboring
Had remediation taken place in 2010, when the property was proposed
as a brownfields site, engineers estimated clean-up to cost
$161,000, but didn't figure in expenses for toxic water
removal/disposal. Ruggiero couldn't afford it. The following year,
the Agency of Natural Resources directed him to immediately clean
up the property; when he didn't, ANR fined and sued. After another
year, the Environmental Court levied a $5,000 fine and with a state
lien on the property, saying that Ruggiero and his landholding
company had to reimburse the state for ANR's clean-up. The ruling
provides for the state to mitigate the contamination, and then have
the state Attorney General sue for cost recovery.