The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking to further evaluate contamination at the site of a former chemical operation on Route 44, according to a letter copied to First Selectman Richard Barlow.
For many years, John Swift Chemical, or Chemical J. Swift, cleaned and distilled spent industrial solvents at 51 Albany Turnpike, contaminating the property along the way, according to numerous state and federal documents. The company closed circa 1972.
Polluted water migrated off the site, contaminating nearby wells and in the early 1990s several nearby homes were connected to public water supply, according to documents from the state attorney general’s office.
The recent letter seeks permission from current property owner Cadle Properties of CT to evaluate “whether hazardous substances, pollutants and contaminants may be, or may have been released to the environment.”
It was not immediately clear if Cadle has granted the access or if the EPA would need to pursue other means. (An EPA representative has agreed to provide some further information on the process and we will update this story as that is presented)
The site has been on the state "Superfund" list for years but has never been cleaned-up, despite various past actions, including judgments against property owners, a push for it to be included in state bonding packages and attempts by town officials to work out a clean-up and sale agreement with the state.
Now the hope is the federal government can bring additional resources to the effort.
“It has not progressed so we’ve asked the EPA to get involved again,” said Maurice Hamel, analyst with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s remediation division.
Cleanup estimates have varied but First Selectman Richard Barlow said the latest proposals he had seen were approximately $4 million from the cleanup and funding of state studies.
The recent letter, dated Nov. 28, 2012, is not the EPA’s first action on the property. According to its Web site, the EPA has assessed the site in the past and in 1994 considered adding it to the National Priority List of Superfund sites. In 2001, however, it was deemed a low priority for further assessment.
That designation, however, was not because the contamination was not serious but rather that there was some hope that it would taken care of on the state level, Hamel said.
That year, the state won a $2.1 million judgment against Cadle. In 1997, it won a $9 million judgment from former owner Gianfranco Galluzzo, who purchased the property from Auto World Enterprises in 1986 before selling to Cadle, according to past AG press releases.
This week, a representative from the attorney general’s office said that money had not been collected and acknowledged the judgments can be difficult to enforce.
Officials said there are no immediate health dangers for those at the site but are still concerned with groundwater and aquifer contamination.
Mitchell Volkswagen is currently operating at the site.
The town is also trying to collect taxes on the property, which Cadle has not paid. In 2011, the town successfully petitioned a Connecticut court to appoint a "receiver," whoassumes the role of a landlord. The receiver would collected "rent" from the parent company of Mitchell Volkswagen, take out fees and expenses, and give the rest to the town to apply to the tax bill. At the time the tax bill, including leans and penalties, exceeded $800,000. Mitchell's parent company has appealed the case and it is still pending.