BEACON FALLS — An ongoing environmental assessment of a brownfield on Railroad Avenue has shown that the land is more contaminated than officials had hoped.
The town received a $78,000 grant in February from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development’s Brownfield Remediation Program to pay for environmental testing of the land and vacant building at 100 Railroad Ave.
The testing started in September and the initial results showed some small contaminants that could easily be contained, said First Selectman Christopher Bielik, who provided an update on the testing to local, state and federal officials last week.
“Due to that we were all hopeful that we were going to get to a good result here,” Bielik said.
However, at the beginning of October the study found a significant problem.
“We got the word they had hit a couple of PCB areas. Of course that is never the acronym anybody wants to hear when you are talking about brownfields,” Bielik said.
PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl, is a chemical that was used in a variety of items, including coolants, sealants, and pesticides until the United States banned production of any good with the chemical in 1979. Long-term exposure to PCB can result in liver damage and cancer.
According to land records, the property is owned by Carolyn Watkins of the Beacon Reel Company. There is a 9,783-square-foot vacant building on the property. The total assessment of the property and building is $184,520.
Watkins has expressed interest in selling the land. Harold Murtha, owner of the Murtha Industrial Park, is considering purchasing the 0.54 acre property for the new site of the industrial park’s front office building, Bielik said.
After Murtha expressed interest, the town applied for the Brownfield Remediation Program grant to help in the potential purchase and redevelopment of the property.
“Obviously nobody is going to buy a pig in a poke. So they wanted to know what the impact was going to be if they were to complete the transaction,” Bielik said.
Now that PCBs have been found on the property, the town is discussing how it can obtain money to clean the site, Bielik said.
Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments Regional Planner Max Tanguay-Colucci, who is working with the town on the property, said his organization is working with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Economic and Community Development to see what can be done.
“Right now the goal is to narrow the cost estimate for what it is going to take to remediate the site,” Tanguay-Colucci said.
Bielik said the town is motivated to find sources of funding to help remediate the property.
“There is a definite positive economic impact that is right there for the talking for us here in town. It is simply a question of finding a path to the remediation so that we can reclaim the site and then build it up the way they are envisioning doing it,” Bielik said.
U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., agreed that it would be beneficial for the town, but pointed out that the cost might outweigh the benefit.
“It is a small site, so there is a number that is too big,” Murphy said. “Some of these really polluted brownfields you can make work because you are putting something big in its place. You are putting a big revenue generator in its place. But if you are putting a million dollars of cleanup to get a pretty small building renovated for one tenant those numbers might not work out.”
The assessment on the property is expected to be finished in November.