GE resumes cleanup at Mill Street site

MILFORD – Cleanup work at the Mill Street portion of the Fletcher Paint Superfund Site resumed recently.

The General Electric Co. and its contractor have been removing PCB-laden soil from the Mill Street and Elm Street sites under the oversight of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Services.

The Elm Street portion of the site has been continuing, but work at the Mill Street portion stopped in April after air monitors detected higher levels of airborne PCBs than the EPA regulates. Three of the 10 air monitoring stations on Mill Street had shown levels above the action level of 0.1 micrograms per cubic liter.

That threshold, EPA representatives say, is conservative and would only be a public health threat after years of exposure.

"Ideally, we don’t want any" contaminants, said Jim Brown, EPA project manager, who gave an overview of the project to residents at a meeting in Town Hall recently.

To keep the vapor from traveling, the site was sprayed with mist, and covered with foam, sheeting and 6 inches of sand.

About two dozen people from Mill and Cottage streets met with representatives from the EPA and the DES on May 10 and had questions about the air testing, cancer risk and property values.

Since then, results posted on the town website on May 14, taken after limited work – including excavation, loading and transport activity – at the Mill Street area showed readings continued to remain below the point where action would be taken, and work has resumed. Out of 10 monitors in the vicinity, one, on Mill Street, showed a level slightly above the desireable level – 0.11 instead of 0.10.

"Yes, the sampling results were very positive," Jim Murphy, EPA community relations administrator said in a phone message Monday.

At the May 10 meeting, Murphy and other EPA and DES representatives told residents what will happen in the summer when warmer air will mean more emissions.

In a worst-case scenario, if the readings remain high, they told the neighbors, work will be postponed until late fall when weather is colder, or the quarter-acre area could be enclosed with a tented structure.

Another option, which would allow work to continue at a good pace, would be to relocate residents in the immediate vicinity to hotels.

The first and third options would mean lengthening the project.

For the cancer risk data, the residents were referred to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

"Property values tend to rebound" after a cleanup, Murphy told the neighbors.

David Osborn, who lives on nearby Cottage Street and requested the meeting, said he and his neighbors are worried about their health and that of their children.

"A lot of us weren’t getting" information, he said, "and we’re also concerned about water and soil quality and the value of our homes."

The EPA extended its outreach work to Cottage Street after residents there expressed concerns.

Work continues uninterrupted on the Elm Street portion of the Superfund site, and during the week that ended May 6, GE contractors transported about 292 tons in 13 loads of contaminated material to an offsite disposal facility, according to information posted on the town website.

Soils, sediments and groundwater were contaminated as a result of 20 years of the storage and release of solvents and the PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls, which are considered probable human carcinogens.

In 1984, Milford’s Keyes Municipal Well was closed after it was discovered to be contaminated with PCBs, a volitile organic compound, as a result of storage of contaminated materials at the Fletcher site on Elm Street and at Fletcher’s storage facility on Mill Street.

Five years later, the federal government added the Elm Street and a Mill Street storage sites to its priorities list, with cleanup paid for by General Electric, which produced the PCB-laden paints and paid Fletcher Paint to store PCBs on the site. In 2010, an EPA project manager told selectmen that the Elm Street contamination was caused by PCBs, not paint, found in 863 drums that were eventually removed.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or