Friday, June 29, 2007
DEP targets property owners for past MTBE cleanup costs
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that it will place a lien on the property located at the intersection of Lowell Street and Bedford Road owned by Robert L. Daisy and his sister, Barbara E. Culkins, as a result of costs incurred by the agency several years ago in cleaning up soil contaminated with the gasoline additive Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE). The 0.6-acre parcel contains both a garage, the site of a former gas station, as well as Ferns Country Store next door. According to DEP press spokesman Ed Colletta, since 2000 DEP has spent roughly $183,000 in contracting and overseeing the gas station cleanup. To that, a 12% annual interest will be charged. The legal notice appears on page14. The lien would have priority and be collected prior to paying any other obligations against the property, such as a mortgage.
In 1996 DEP ordered cleanup of the site due to MTBE contamination that had been found in nearby wells. The Daisy family hired the firm 21E, Inc. and in 1998 three underground gasoline storage tanks and related pipes were excavated on the north side of the garage, along with about 300 cubic yards of contaminated soil around the tanks and gas station pumps.
Dissatisfied with the extent of remediation, DEP took over the cleanup in 2000. According to "DEP denies extension for Daisy's cleanup" (Mosquito, March 31, 2000), one reason for the decision included the detection of a new gasoline-related contaminant, toluene, in a nearby well, suggesting that the contamination had not yet been stabilized. In October, 2000, DEP removed another 1,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil, filtered groundwater and installed monitoring wells.
According to the September 12, 2006 minutes of the Board of Health, "Under the original Immediate Response Activity the Daisys were required to pay for filtration systems for six private wells impacted with high levels of MTBE." The Daisys have continued to be involved and had agreed in the spring of 2006 to pay up to $700 for additional water testing. Levels of MTBE have dropped substantially since the site cleanup. For example, a private well on Lowell Street that had measured MTBE as high as 330 ppb in the past had a reading of 39.4 in 2006, and the contaminant level in a well on East Street dropped from 83 ppb in 1998 to 11.1 ppb. However, the BOH minutes state, "the levels of benzene and toluene at the site continue to exceed drinking water standards. "
MTBE is a colorless liquid used since 1979 primarily as a gasoline additive. According to the Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet on-line at: www.epa.gov/mtbe/faq.htm, MTBE dissolves easily in water. It evaporates easily from surface water but persists in ground water. Because it does not stick well to soil particles, it travels faster underground than other gasoline components.
A maximum MTBE contaminant level standard for drinking water has not yet been established by the state or federal government, though a guideline of 70 ppb has been issued by the state Office of Research and Standards.
It has been estimated that over the next 30 years the nationwide cost of MTBE cleanup will reach between one and three billion dollars, according to www.aehs.com, the website of the Association for Environmental Health and Sciences.
Since 2003, the property has been leased to Carlisle Center Ventures, LLC, which owns and operates Ferns. Carlisle Center Ventures has not been involved in the soil remediation. Company CEO and store proprieter Larry Bearfield said, "As a tenant, it's not our responsibility." He added that they use bottled water for coffee preparation and vegetable washing, even though their well water tests free from gasoline contaminants .
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