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Consultant discusses possible hazardous impacts of W.W. Cross fire

  • More than a dozen towns responded to a five-alarm fire at the former WW Cross building in Jaffrey on Sunday evening. Copyright Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to news@ledgertranscript.com. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/29/2020 4:34:00 PM

Few potential contaminants were stored in the portion of the former W.W. Cross building which burned last week, according to an environmental assessment company that has been working with the town to mitigate long-standing hazards on the property.

The town has been working with the property owners to secure grants to determine the hazardous materials present on the site, and possibly mitigate them, a process that’s likely to take hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Steven Rickerich, a vice president and senior geologist at Ransom Consulting Engineers and Scientists, met with the Select Board via Zoom on Thursday to discuss the most recent findings on the site, as well as the potential impacts of a fire earlier this month which destroyed a portion of the building.

Rickerich told the board that based upon prior assessments of the building, and photographs of the portion destroyed by the fire, there wasn’t a significant amount of potentially hazardous materials stored in the area. There may have been some adhesive or petroleum products stored in the area, but likely only in gallon amounts, not significant quantities, he said. However, the building materials for the building itself include asbestos, lead paint, and fluorescent lights which are hazardous and are likely still present in the debris.

Rickerich said the debris will have to be dealt with at some point, as ash or water runoff could impact the surrounding area, but the concrete foundation of the building has largely protected the area for now.

Previous studies of the property have shown several hazards already in the soil and water, usually in area-specific locations within the western half of the property, including zinc, brass and cyanide.

To clear the property of contaminants, Rickerich told the Select Board that approximately 300 tons of soil would have to be removed from the property.

“That’s quite an undertaking,” he said.

And potentially expensive. The removal alone, could cost as little as $20,000 or as much as $100,000, depending upon the levels of hazardous waste and what steps need to be taken to treat it.

But that’s not the only expense associated with restoring the site. There’s about $240,000 in abatement costs associated with removing the building from the site.

The cost of those abatements could be covered by grants from the state Environmental Protection Agency, which has specific funds set aside for brownfields sites, or sites where past activity has resulted in hazards left in the soil or groundwater. The W.W. Cross qualifies as a brownfield site, as all the hazards currently on the property are traced back to when it was used as a manufacturing facility.

The Select Board discussed the status of the building, which has several years of back taxes due, and whether the town should begin the process to take possession of it in payment for those taxes.

“We need to investigate what’s possible,” Select Board Chair Frank Sterling said. “Remediation is necessary, and we can’t sit on this anymore.”

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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