OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
February 21, 2017
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:01 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner and Bradley Rafus were present; Mitchell Green was unable to attend. James “Buzz” Surwilo, Kasey Kathan (both from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation), Stephan Chait, Marguereit Rafus, Everett Wilson, Ray Combs, Alice Aldrich, Edee Edwards, Mark Halverson, and Robbin Gabriel were also in attendance.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Brad Rafus made a motion to approve the 2/7/2017 regular meeting minutes as written. Lewis Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
WSWMD/Encore Energy Solar Contract
As the guest speakers from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation had not yet arrived, the Board signed the WSWMD solar contract as the first order of business. Sumner explained this contract related to the solar project on the WSWMD landfill at their Ferry Road location in Brattleboro. We’ll be saving approximately 20% a year, he said, they have their permits in to the State and are waiting for Public Service Board approval. They hope to begin construction in April. Will we have to put money up for that?, asked Ray Combs. No, said Sumner, who then told Stephan Chait the plan is for the project to be complete and online by October 2017. This is a 5K project with twenty acres of solar panels. Sumner made a motion to sign the contract for the WSWMD net metering project with PSTVF 1, LLC. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0.
Kasey Kathan, Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation—PFC Discussion
Kasey Kathan and James “Buzz” Surwilo, who are with the State Solid Waste Program, introduced themselves. Kathan told the meeting they handle management of landfills, and had requested PFC testing—first in Bennington, and then, when contamination was found there–in other locations around the state. Stain protection in carpets and textiles, Teflon pans, pesticides, and cleaning agents are all potential sources of PFCs, said Kathan. Although all landfills tested in Windham and Bennington counties showed some detectable PFC levels, not all those locations received waste materials from Bennington. The State standard is 20 parts per trillion (ppt); the Halifax landfill, Putney Paper, and Burgess Construction demolition landfill (in Bennington) were the only sites with test results above the 20 ppt level. Vermont’s standard is low; the federal standard is 70 ppt.
Using a large topographical map, Kathan indicated the position of the first monitoring well tested at the Halifax landfill, and the second monitoring well and the residential well tested subsequently. She described the steep terrain, which drops off toward Branch Brook, and spoke of the long-term monitoring process—for metals and volatile organic compounds–which was initiated when the landfill closed over twenty years ago. That testing has been done twice a year. Edee Edwards asked for the location of the private well whose owner refused testing, the town garage well, and also mentioned an earlier landslide at the site. Both residential wells are up-gradient, said Kathan, so we did not expect to find detectable PFC levels. The town garage well is at a greater distance, sort of parallel to the landfill, not in the direction groundwater is flowing. The landslide situation was stabilized in 2007. Everett Wilson asked about laboratory accreditation. The labs performing the PFC tests are all accredited, responded Kathan. The labs are rigorously vetted to assure they qualify to process every substance they test, and each test result includes details of those qualifications. Stephan Chait wanted to know whether the hydrology of the landfill area had been studied, particularly as related to the bedrock aquifer. We have a good understanding of the surficial aquifer, the soils and materials above the bedrock, answered Kathan. I can’t say we have a complete understanding of bedrock aquifers, but substances coming out of the landfill should be moving in the surficial layer. The groundwater wants to move—it’s going to keep flowing. The landfill’s steep hillside, with the stream nearby, means rapid movement. What about PFC detection in the stream?, asked Chait. Not at these concentrations, said Kathan. In Bennington, where landfill test results were in the thousands of parts per trillion, moving surface water did not test at high ppt. The Halifax landfill monitoring well tested at 28 ppt; that’s the equivalent of a drop of food coloring in a ten-mile long string of tanker cars. How many wells do we have in Halifax over the state limit?, asked Ray Combs. Just the single monitoring well at the landfill, responded Kathan.
Are the depths of the monitoring wells at the landfill the same?, asked Brad Rafus. One is thirty feet, the other forty, said Kathan. More testing will be done, during spring and fall seasons; how long that testing continues will depend on test results. Kathan told Chait the State did not have funds to assist with test costs, but the town could anticipate some financial relief from the scheduled termination of long-term metals monitoring. In response to a question from Peggy Rafus about the integrity of PFC testing from an outside faucet, Kathan explained that samples were obtained from a source outside the residence—an exterior tap or pressure tank—to eliminate the possibility of false readings which can occur if old Teflon tape or electrical lines are present in the house. Bacterial contamination which might be present at an outside faucet is not relevant when testing for PFCs, as bacteria do not break down PFCs. Kathan also told Combs the well at the landfill is strictly for monitoring; it does not provide drinking water.
Brad Rafus wondered if the town garage well should be tested, as it is the next point downstream from the well that tested at 5 ppt. Rafus is concerned that town employees and the public use that well. It is further downstream, said Kathan, but at the same elevation as the monitoring wells. Groundwater flow will go towards the stream, not in the direction of the town garage well. I’m not going to require that well be tested, she said, but it is certainly something you can do at your own discretion.
Edee Edwards suggested installing a carbon filtration system at the town garage, as a safety measure. Kathan said the type of filtration system which would be effective in removing PFCs is expensive and requires regular maintenance and testing. It would be more expensive than testing the well, added Buzz Surwilo. Kathan told Chait that carbon filtration systems are effective in removing PFCs, but, once again, maintenance is costly. Will you be retesting private wells?, asked Peggy Rafus. No, answered Kathan, we will be testing the initial monitoring well; the one with PFC levels above State standard. Peggy Rafus wondered why the much larger Brattleboro (WSWMD) landfill tested below State standards for PFCs. The Brattleboro landfill has a synthetic cap, said Kathan, so there may be less leachate, and the monitoring wells may be receiving groundwater from smaller sections of the landfill. The quantity of sludge used to cap the Halifax landfill is clearly documented in Bennington wastewater records filed with the State, she continued, so I feel pretty confident the amount of sludge material brought in is not in question. Rafus made the point that the PFC issue was new to Vermont, and it is too early to have complete information and draw conclusions about PFC migration. In Vermont we are definitely in the beginning stages of learning how to manage this, said Kathan, but internationally, Europe in particular has been proactive in landfill studies, and the 20 ppt PFC level is in line with their findings. Kathan offered sources of information; the web site dec.vermont.gov has a PFOA water contamination link at the top of the page, and Kathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-522-0561 if anyone has questions. Kathan said she would share hydrology information and other documentation from the time of the landfill closure with interested parties. There is a process in place for private individuals wishing to test their water supply; information is available on the dec.vermont.gov website. Currently costs run $300-$500 per test.
Chait thanked Kathan and Surwilo for coming down to share information and answer questions. There was some further general discussion about blood testing being done in the Bennington area, where PFC concentrations were high. Kathan told Chait that by the time PFCs reached groundwater level they were too degraded to make it possible to identify specifically the product from which they had originated. Brad Rafus asked whether someone walking the landfill could get contaminated. No, replied Kathan, Vermont health standard is set for someone who drinks four liters of water containing 20 ppt every day for seventy years. That person has a one in a million chance of being impacted. Buzz Surwilo said there is uncertainty about difference between the PFC level in sludge brought in twenty-two years ago and the current 28 ppt test results from the monitoring well. The sludge was brought in and placed on an impermeable cap, so it is unlikely for PFCs to have gotten into the groundwater and then exited into the monitoring well. Most likely there was overland flow that is long gone, and there’s something in the landfill to account for current readings. Other municipal landfills, which did not receive sludge, still had a detection in the teens, said Kathan. Sumner said an engineer had told him there were PFCs in plastic-bottled water, especially if it had been in the bottle for awhile. Kathan agreed; there are also PFCs in food packaging, also, she added.
Alice Aldrich questioned why the State allowed sludge to be trucked in when the town had an ordinance forbidding it. Isn’t the State responsible? That was before my time, said Kathan. The State may have approved it as part of the closure plan, but wouldn’t have required it. The Town approved it, said Peggy Rafus.
WSWMD/Encore Energy Solar Contract (continued)
Sumner made a motion to sign a letter to the Public Service Board in support of the WSWMD solar project. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0. The letter was signed.
Hearing of Visitors
Ray Combs commented that the Highway Department crew had done an excellent job on the roads during the recent storm.
Sign Orders to the Treasurer
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Various pieces of correspondence were reviewed.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:27 p.m.