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Cleanup Progress at Burlington, Vermont's Pine Street Canal Reviewed

Release Date: 06/8/2006
Contact Information: Jim Murphy, (617) 918-1028

(Boston, Mass. - June 8, 2006) - EPA will soon begin reviewing the performance of cleanup technologies in place at the Pine Street Canal Superfund site in Burlington, Vt.

The five-year review is typically done within five years of the start of construction of a Superfund response action and is repeated every five years at sites where waste has been capped in place and use of the site remains restricted. The review is a comprehensive evaluation of the site clean-up, which includes an evaluation of the results of ongoing sampling and monitoring. EPA will also talk with Burlington officials and citizens, including members of the Pine Street Barge Canal Coordinating Council to gain a better understanding of local concerns.

The review team will evaluate the information gathered and then determine whether the clean-up adequately protects public health and the environment. After completing these activities, EPA will issue a Five-Year Review Report summarizing its findings. EPA’s five-year review process ensures the remedy chosen to clean this site continues to protect public health and the environment.

A manufactured gas plant operated at the Pine Street Canal site from 1895 to 1966. The contamination at the site is from coal gasification wastes. In the 1970's, exploratory borings for the proposed Southern Connector highway revealed subsurface contamination. In 1983, the Pine Street Canal site was listed on the Superfund National Priorities List. In 1985, EPA conducted an emergency removal of soil contaminated with coal tar in the wetlands adjacent to the barge canal, an area known as Maltex Pond.

EPA investigations at the site from 1989 to 1992 revealed extensive coal tar contamination in the sediment and soils in the canal and adjacent wetlands. EPA proposed removing the contaminated sediments and putting them into a combined disposal facility on site, but withdrew this plan six months later because of community opposition to the proposal. Additional studies were conducted from 1994 to 1998 under the auspices of the Pine Street Barge Canal Coordinating Council, which recommended capping the contaminated sediment in place.

EPA adopted the recommendation of the Coordinating Council and issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in 1998 that called for capping the contaminated sediment and soil in the canal and adjacent wetlands to address risk to the environment; long term monitoring; and imposing land use restrictions on the site to prevent migration or unacceptable human exposure to contaminants. In February 2000, a consent decree was signed.

The remedy was implemented in two phases. The first involved installing a dam where the canal empties into Lake Champlain. The dam, or weir, will maintain desired water levels in the canal to prevent future erosion of the underwater cap. Construction of the weir was completed in November 2001.

The second phase involved capping contaminated soils at the southern end of the site, placing the sand cap over contaminated sediments in the canal and turning basin, making improvements to the stormwater control system, and wetlands restoration. Work began in July 2002, and was completed in March 2003.

In June 2003, a breakout of coal tar was discovered in an uncapped area immediately adjacent to, but not in, the canal. During the summer of 2004, the sand cap was extended over a portion of canal’s west bank where coal tar was being released to the ground surface via macropores (e.g., historic cribbing, root system of dead trees, etc). The expanded cap appeared to address the ongoing release of contamination until sheens and globules of coal tar were observed floating on the surface water at the southern end of the canal beginning in spring 2005 and continuing to the present. Environmental controls, such as absorbent booms, keep the contamination from entering Lake Champlain. The precise mechanism for these ongoing releases is not known, and is the subject of additional investigations in 2006.

The clean-up also includes institutional controls to prohibit potable use of groundwater below the site; institutional controls for certain land-use development such as residential and children's day-care center; site boundary definition to allow for redevelopment of certain adjacent parcels, long-term performance monitoring and five-year reviews.

More information about cleanup activities at the Pine Street Canal Superfund Site may be found on the EPA New England web site ( or by calling Karen Lumino, Remedial Project Manager, at 617-918-1348.

EPA technical reports and documents are available for public review in the site information repositories located in Burlington at the Fletcher Free Public Library, 235 College St. and the University of Vermont, Bailey-Howe Library, Burlington, VT 05401. The public may also review site information at the EPA New England Records Center, One Congress Street, Boston, MA 02114 (617) 918-1440.
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