NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The former Sun Cleaners at 111 River St. will be demolished and the less than quarter-acre property cleaned up.
The city took possession of the former dry cleaning shop in 2019 as part of a portfolio of properties transferred by the now-dissolved Housing Opportunities Inc.
The agreement was that the city would only take the property if any contamination could be removed at no cost to North Adams. That had been expected to come out of funds from Housing Opportunities also being transferred to the city but instead will come out of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's brownfields revolving loan fund.
The grant is about $220,000.
A number of borings had been done around the site and some contamination was found, largely to do with the dry cleaner that operated on the site from the late 1970s into the early 2000s.
"The two key things we found were that there is soil contamination there, it was high enough levels that we had a report to Mass DEP," said Todd Kirton, senior environmental scientist, with Tighe & Bond, at Monday's public hearing on the cleanup. "Most of all the soil contamination that we found is at shallow depth. It is not very deep and the groundwater is not significantly impacted which is, it really is a good thing."
The main contaminants are solvent-related, typical to dry cleaning operations, and some petroleum. The solvents are mainly found in the rear area of the 1,800 square foot building. There is no impact on neighboring properties or the Hoosic River.
"When I say it's not very deep, it's 5-6-7 feet deep at most that we've seen ... and groundwater is about 15 feet down at the site," Kirton said. "There's a need to remediate the site. To review, the project goal is to remediate it for future redevelopment."
Tighe & Bond, an engineering consultant firm in Westfield, is the city's licensed site professional firm and did the required Analysis of Brownfields Cleanup Alternatives, or ABCA.
In addition to doing borings and substrate analysis, it also did a hazardous building materials assessment on the 1880 one-story structure. The building is considered too far gone to save.
Kirton said there are three options — doing nothing, capping the contamination or doing a full remediation and demolition. The first and second options aren't viable, he explained, since something would have to be done if the parcel was to be used and capping is usually for large areas and where cost is an issue.
"The other thing about the contamination that we have at this site is that you don't really like to build on this, when there's chlorinated water, called chlorinated VOCs (volatile organic compounds), because they have a chance to impact indoor air into a building if you built over them," he said. "So, the site really lends itself to and the funding available for us to do demolition, get access to the contaminated soils, remove them for off-site disposal and backfill to grade, and try to achieve cleanup to a level where there's no restrictions on the property."
The solvent-contaminated soil will have to be removed to taken off-site, probably to a site in New Hampshire, which Kirton said would be one of the costlier aspects of the remediation.
Michael Nuvallie of the city's Office of Community Development, said the goal is to put the lot to some use — by selling it to a neighbor, using it as a pocket park or parking lot, or considering it in conjunction with several other nearby properties the city owns.
These plans will be informed by feedback from the community.
One of the grant requirements was to have a community relations plan and the partner chosen for that is Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, which runs the UNO Center just down the street for the property. The coalition's Executive Director Amber Besaw was the only other person to attend the public hearing.
"She's going to give us a little bit of further exposure on this topic for the promotion of the redevelopment of the area," Nuvallie said, through the NBCC's newsletter and forums.
There is a 30-day comment period on the cleanup; public comments can be submitted to email@example.com until mid-November. The analysis is available in the Office of Community Development and should be posted on the city website.
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