WESTERLY — Town officials plan to apply for a $500,000 grant from the federal government to fund the cleanup of four lagoons that were used to treat chemicals and other wastewater at the former Bradford Dyeing Association property. If approved, the town would be required to contribute $100,000 toward the cost of the work.
The 61-acre property at 460 Bradford Road, which was used as a textile mill from 1911 to 2012, is currently in receivership, a state-court process akin to bankruptcy. Town officials, concerned that the property represented a public health risk, petitioned a Superior Court judge in June, asking him to place the property in receivership. Local taxes of more than $200,000 have not been paid, and two federal liens have been placed on the property.
Town Manager J. Mark Rooney asked for the Town Council's "consent" to apply for the grant during a special meeting of the council on Dec. 21. A letter outlining the need for the grant from Lisa Pellegrini, director of development services, was read aloud during the meeting. Council President Christopher Duhamel recused from discussion of the grant because of a conflict of interest arising from his job as vice president of DiPrete Engineering, a civil engineering firm.
According to Pellegrini's letter, Phase I and Phase II Environmental Assessments of the property have been completed. The $500,000 would be used to "initiate cleanup of the wastewater lagoons," she wrote. Work under the grant would have to be completed within three years.
Pellegrini declined to comment for this article and referred questions to Rooney, who is out of the office until next week. Pellegrini also declined to release a copy of a report on the Phase II study, saying it was in a draft form. The state Access to Public Records Act provides an exemption allowing municipalities to withhold draft documents from release to the public.
The studies were conducted on the town's behalf by Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions Inc. of Providence. The studies were funded by a $200,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Assessment Grant. The town is applying to the EPA for the next round of grant funds under the agency's Brownfield Cleanup program.
The purpose of the Phase I study was to identify known environmental conditions or concerns. The company studied the mill property as well as adjoining properties to look for signs of contamination caused by the mill. In addition to visual observations, staff members from Wood Environmental reviewed municipal, state and federal documents related to the property, its use, and environmental conditions.
Nick Griseto, whose BPF Realty LLC bought the property in 2010, did not complete a questionnaire sent to him by Wood Environment but did participate in interviews associated with the report. Griseto opened Bradford Printing and Finishing on the site in 2009 after BDA closed earlier that year. He had been BDA's executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Wood's review of aerial photographs of the property revealed that the lagoons appear to have been built in 1981. Griseto, according to the report, said that water flowed from the mill complex to an equalization basin, and from there it was pumped into an aeration/aerobic digestion basin. Then the water was transferred into a second aeration basin, and finally it was pumped into a clarifier tank. From the clarifier, the wastewater was discharged into the Pawcatuck River.
According to the Wood report, there was no sign of a septic system on the mill property. Dozens of 55-gallon drums and other containers, most empty but some full of dyes, waste oil, and other chemicals were found in the mill buildings. Some of the drums were described as being in "fair to poor condition."
Some of the hazardous wastes generated at the site include corrosive waste, and spent halogenated solvents and chemicals used for degreasing. The substances included tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, trichloroethane, carbon tetrachloride, chlorinated fluorocarbons, acetophenone, formaldehyde, formic acid, and ethane.
Nine empty, above-ground storage tanks were found. The report also touches on past environmental problems at the mill, including at a dumping area about 4,800 feet southwest of the property that was used by the company and previously cleaned up under monitoring by the state Department of Environmental Management. The area was cleaned up in 1995. Groundwater sampling was halted in 2002 after results from three consecutive rounds of sampling came back within the required standards.
The Wood report also describes a 1998 investigation of water quality problems in the Pawcatuck River adjacent to the mill. In 2006, the company settled a lawsuit filed by the DEM connected to the 1998 findings, in which it agreed to pay $150,000 in fines and to make improvements to the lagoons.
Rooney told the Town Council that the $500,000 grant represents "a way without being in ownership to clean up" the lagoons. "Those lagoons won't be cleaned up if we don't use this type of grant money," he said.
Rooney's proposed capital project budget for 2018-19 includes funds that would be used to conduct a study of potential reuses of the former mill property. Several members of the Town Council cited the property as a potential economic development project during the campaign leading up to the election in November.
Questions regarding the $500,000 grant should be directed to Pellegrini at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pellegrini is expected to provide an update to the Town Council on the grant application in January.