Hazardous material clean-up at former Belchertown State School

This PCB contamination is from old building materials

BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said elevated levels of PCBs were found on the grounds of the former Belchertown State School.

PCB’s are a hazardous and highly toxic chemical used in electrical transformers. The State School contamination is from an old transformer, according to Bill Terry from the EDIC, but MassDevelopment spokesperson Margaret Quackenbush said the PCBs in the soil is came from exterior materials commonly used in building construction in the 1950s-1970s.

Quackenbush issued a statement to 22news.  Her message is posted at the end of this article.

The former school is less than a quarter mile away from the Chestnut Hill Community School.

Gayle Laclair of Belchertown told 22News, “It is very concerning because of cancer causing agents; you have to be concerned about the children, the water, and we have a well system here.”

MassDevelopment and the Economic Development Industrial Corporation are responsible for the cleanup.

According to Chairman of EDIC Bill Terry, MassDevelopment received $3-million of a $10-million state bond to help with the cleanup. He said 7 out of the 30 contaminated buildings have been demolished, and three additional buildings will be demolished by June.

The site is the future home of an assisted living facility, which will offer 83 units for senior citizens. 50% of the units will be available to low income families.

MassDevelopment spokesperson Margaret Quackenbush provided the following statement to 22News:

“MassDevelopment continues to support the redevelopment efforts of BEDIC at the former Belchertown State School.  Through these efforts, MassDevelopment retained the consulting firm Tighe & Bond to help manage the assessment, demolition, and cleanup efforts at the property. To date, many buildings have been successfully demolished and cleaned up.  The reported matter of PCBs in soil is common for buildings constructed in the 1950s-1970s.  Buildings constructed in this era commonly used PCBs as part of the exterior building materials. In this case, PCBs are present in the exterior building caulking.  As part of Tighe & Bond’s demolition design efforts, soil samples were collected from the perimeter of the building, which identified low levels of PCBs associated with the weathering of exterior building caulking.  As reported by Tighe & Bond’s Licensed Site Professional (LSP) Marc Richards, these low levels required reporting to MassDEP; do not pose a risk to trespassers or dog walkers on the property; and do not represent a threat to groundwater.  The PCB soil impacts will be fully addressed as part of the planned building demolition.  Following continued building demolition and oversight by Tighe & Bond’s LSP, the property will have no restrictions on future site reuse or redevelopment.”