Cleanup Of Handler Property To Begin

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Development , Environment

The conservation commission is examining a plan to remove lead and zinc contamination from the former Handler Auto Parts property as new owners look to developing the site. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO


New Owners Mum On Future Plans

HARWICH — A major site remediation plan is being planned for the former Handler’s Auto Parts property along Route 28 in Harwich Port as the new owners begin to redevelop the two-acre site located above the inner Allen Harbor marsh.

Future plans for the site are still not clear, but a thorough site remediation for contaminated soils and remediation of disturbed areas was presented to the conservation commission last week by BSC Group, Inc., a Yarmouth-based environmental engineering firm, on behalf of the new owners of the property, Jeff Lang and Jeff Handler. The study found lead and zinc contamination that will have to be addressed.

Commission members were pleased that the property will be cleaned up.

“It’s been amazing. I’ve looked at the cars there for 50 years. The site has been a mess,” Conservation Commission member Carolyn O’Leary said. “As a commission we have a responsibility to clean it up. This may be the best offer in front of us to clean up a toxic site.”

“It’s a wonderful thing to be cleaning up this site. It’s good for the applicant and the town,” Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski added.

The site assessment conducted by BSC Group found no significant concentrations of heavy metals, not even petroleum hydrocarbons, said project engineer David Crispin. But through the leakage of fluids stored at the site over the years lead from leaded gasoline was present. Zinc from anti-knock additives was also found.

“We found some interesting things, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Crispin said of his observations after examining test holes on the property.

The lead and zinc concentrations were found on the southern and northwest side of the property in a small portion of the salt marsh and in sections of the buffer zone to wetland resources. Up to 28,000 square feet in the riverfront area will have to be altered, he said. The plan calls for restoration of 850 square feet of salt marsh and 450 linear feet of coastal bank.

The plan is to excavate down to six inches along the southern portion of the site where Crispin said car parts and broken glass were found. But the plan also calls for restoration and removal of contaminated soil in 850 square feet of salt marsh below the high tide line. Another 1,650 square feet of wetlands with phragmites would be removed. In total 2,500 square feet of wetland would be impacted, along with 1,300 square feet of man-made coastal bank.

Crispin also said the building and the foundation now there will also be removed.

In compliance with the Massachusetts Contingency Plan for removal of oil and hazardous waste, the contaminated soil will be excavated and relocated to the southwest corner of the property where the highest concentrations were observed. The soil would be covered with three feet of clean soil and a geotextile fabric would be placed on top, he said.

“The site will be deemed an activity and use limitation site due to the buried contaminated soil,” the report stated. It would be categorized as being “potentially isolated,” meaning the public would not be typically exposed.

The newly disturbed areas of the salt marsh and the phragmites location will be stripped and planted with native salt marsh grasses and the stabilized coastal bank planted with beach grasses. Other areas will be planted with tolerant coastal grass mixes.

Beyond the coastal bank, loam and seed are not proposed “because development of the upland portion of the site will be proposed in the future and will be subject to a future filing,” according to the report.

“You’ll have to come back with a use of the property. It would help to know what is going to be put there,” O’Leary said.

“Everything we do will meet the performance standards. We’ll manage stormwater and build buffers. Building, driveways and parking will have to come back to the conservation commission,” responded Matthew Creighton, manager of ecological services for BSC.

The commission had a number of questions about the plan to encapsulate the contaminated soil on site. Member Mark Coleman wanted to know why a liner was not being put beneath the contaminated material. Member Stanley Pastuszak said contents in the soil will eventually leak.

Crispin said the least disturbance on site would generate less of a chance for spread of contamination. He also pointed out in over 50 years the lead and zinc contamination had not moved. He suggested placing a parking lot over the material might serve as “a second parachute” of protection.

Commission member John Ketchum asked about protection of wildlife. Crispin said under the level two category of the MCP, the standards include protecting wildlife and the wetlands and “if we don’t meet it, we’ll have to do another level three standard test.”

There was discussion about moving the contaminated soil off site. Crispin said it could be shipped to Maine, but it would be very expensive; he estimated $150 per ton. He said that would be a serious amount of money and has to be weighed against the risk.

Usowski emphasized the importance of continued monitoring of the site. Creighton said the state Department of Environmental Protection will require a remedial action plan that will including monitoring going forward. “We'll meet the standards going forward,” he said.

Chairman Brad Chase wanted to know the time frame for the work to be done. He expressed concern for it happening during the rainy season in the fall. Crispin said permits should be in place to begin by fall. Chase suggested summer would be the better time to conduct the work to avoid rain flushing any contamination.

The commission members said they wanted more detail on monitoring plans, and the state Division of Marine Fisheries has requested a three-year monitoring plan. The commission voted to continue the hearing to its July 1 meeting so those details could be provided.