OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SELECTBOARD REGULAR MEETING MINUTES
August 21, 2018
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Selectboard members Lewis Sumner, Mitchell Green, and Bradley Rafus were present, as were John Gannon (Windham-6 Representative), Peggy Rafus, Ray Combs, Everett Wilson, Sue Kelly, Hope Phelan, Cara Cheyette, and Robbin Gabriel.
Changes and/or Additions to Agenda
Brad Rafus added an update on Green River Road bridge #17 repairs.
Approval of Previous Meeting Minutes
Mitch Green made a motion to accept the 8/7/18 regular meeting minutes as written. Brad Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Representative John Gannon, PFOA/PFOS Discussion
Lewis Sumner thanked John Gannon for accepting the Board’s invitation to tonight’s meeting. Gannon said he had read the last meeting minutes and was aware of the positive PFC test results in Halifax, including trace amounts in one private well. Responding to the Selectboard’s request for an update on PFOA-related legislation, Gannon advised that Act 55, requiring parties responsible for contamination to connect people to a public water system, was signed into law in 2017. He noted that would not be helpful in Halifax, where no public water system exists. Two bills, S.103 and S.197, were introduced this year; S.103 would have established a committee charged with studying chemical agents to determine their danger level and what steps should be taken by the State to police them, while S.197 dealt with liability for release of toxic substances. This latter bill would have made it easier for individuals or municipalities to sue responsible parties. Both these pieces of legislation were vetoed by the Governor; S.197 passed in the House and Senate, but did not garner sufficient votes to override a veto.
Gannon suggested that Act 55 could be expanded in the next biennium, and he recommended querying VLCT to learn about potential existing insurance coverage. Rafus advised the Town policy does have a contamination rider. Sumner said the cost of testing at least two private wells plus the twice-a-year testing of the closed landfill monitoring wells was a concern. Gannon offered to talk to the State about assistance with test costs; he noted that in some instances landowners outside the Bennington area (where contamination levels are high) have received help with test costs. Rafus said his private well was one of those tested. His well tested negative, but as the landfill monitoring well test results have continued to increase, Rafus would like his private well tested once a year. Gannon said he would reach out to Kasey Kathan (Vermont Agency of Natural Resources) and Senators Jeanette White and Rebecca Balint, to find out what they could do to help. We are paying for a part of the Lake Champlain cleanup, said Green; the State should help us with this (local PFC testing). We haven’t figured out how we’re paying for Lake Champlain yet, said Gannon; the money runs out in this coming year. Rafus described the testing process and results to date: landfill monitoring well MW-3 levels have increased, MW-4 well showed a low level in the first test round and has not been retested, private wells on abutting properties have tested negative thus far, with the exception of the Phelan private well, which is on the other side of Branch Brook. We have been attempting to establish a perimeter, said Rafus, and as the Phelan well is the farthest away of those tested thus far we are more concerned. Peggy Rafus said she would like to have a hydrology study done to determine where the water table is and in what direction it is traveling. Cara Cheyette remarked that the contamination happened at a fixed moment in time (the capping of the landfill in 1995). Does anyone understand why it would be increasing in certain sites, as opposed to decreasing?, she asked. That’s what we’re trying to determine, answered Peggy Rafus; it could be a number of things. Brad Rafus outlined the monitoring well testing history: A first fall test showed 28 ppt (parts per trillion), the following spring sampling was 112 ppt, then a fall reading was 86 ppt, and now (spring 2018) the results are 167 ppt. Peggy Rafus told the meeting that after the original State notification of the testing requirement and receipt of the first sampling results, Kasey Kathan had attended a Selectboard meeting to share information and answer questions about PFCs. The Board would like to have Kathan return now that several years’ of sampling have been completed, and Gannon said he would work to arrange another meeting.
Further general discussion covered the variable and changing State and Federal permissible levels of PFOA/PFOS contamination, potential health threats, Saint-Gobain’s responsibility in Bennington and elsewhere, and the process by which the State approved sludge materials for capping the landfill in 1995. Brad Rafus said that aside from concerns for his own family, Town officials have a responsibility for the health and safety of all the Town’s citizens. We need some answers, he added; it’s on my doorstep, but it is also on my neighbors’ doorsteps, and we are here to protect the people. Gannon summarized his plans to speak with various State officials, and Peggy Rafus asked him to also try to find out how many sequential tests were needed for the State to determine a trend. Hope Phelan noted her private well was not shown on the map in the test result report; Brad Rafus said that map showed only the landfill monitoring wells, not the private wells. Peggy Rafus questioned KAS Environmental’s inclusion of private well test results in their most recent report to the State, as the private well test was not a State requirement. Gabriel explained that the test had been done in conjunction with the monitoring well sampling, at a greatly reduced cost, and one report was generated for both tests. The report stated clearly that the private well test was requested by the Town, and was not required by the State.
Phelan asked whether KAS would be retesting her private well. Sumner said the Board had received a response from KAS, which Gabriel read for the record as follows:
“Thanks for providing the link to the Town’s selectboard minutes and also for taking the time to talk with me yesterday afternoon. KAS appreciates the Town’s concerns and the sensitive nature of the topic (PFC contamination) in general. Because of our long standing relationship with the Town, KAS is willing to provide our services (labor and equipment, coordination and reporting) at no cost should the Town elect to sample the Phelan well again. The laboratory costs would be billed at cost with no markup. KAS is willing to reach out to our laboratory vendor to see if we can get a one time reduced rate for the laboratory services. These costs assume the sampling would be performed in conjunction with the October sampling event. If the sampling is needed prior to this then it would have to coincide with other KAS work in the area.”
Peggy Rafus said she would like to have her well tested again, and asked that be part of any decision made tonight. Green made a motion to test the Rafus and Phelan wells in October, when the landfill monitoring well is tested. Sumner seconded the motion, which passed, 2-0-1, with Brad Rafus abstaining.
Referring to new State standards for highway construction and maintenance, Brad Rafus asked Gannon about Act 64 (the Clean Water Act): Now that we are a year-plus into it, has the State collected any further information to see what kind of burden they are putting on the small towns? No, answered Gannon, they haven’t figured out how to fund it yet, and I don’t think they have focused on the burden to the small towns. Gannon mentioned available grants, which Rafus said are only small amounts. We just did two segments on a Stark Mountain project, he added; we had a grant for $13,300, but the project cost $41,000. Rafus said that in setting up the grants, the State is not considering access to required materials. Halifax is more distant from material sources than other towns, he said, which means higher trucking and time costs, and also means lost hours that the highway crew would normally use for regular tasks such as grading, brush-cutting, and cleaning culverts. Hiring an outside contractor for the State-required projects would approximately double the cost, he went on, so I am trying to keep the work in-house to protect the budget, but I don’t have enough manpower to accomplish all that is required. Rafus is of the opinion that in a town such as Halifax, with many miles of gravel roads at more than 5% grade, the State-mandated stone-lined ditches cause additional problems. When those ditches fill with silt, there is no way to effectively clean them other than to remove the stone. I don’t think this plan was well thought-out with respect to small towns with limited resources and budgets, he concluded. Gannon agreed that small towns were not adequately considered in the process, and said Act 64 was passed without a funding plan. Now we need to find $68 million dollars in the next session, he added. Prior to leaving the meeting, Gannon offered to return before the next legislative session convenes.
At Hope Phelan’s request, Gabriel read the balance of the KAS Environmental email (referenced above) as follows:
“KAS would like to clear up some misconceptions we observed after reading the Town minutes. . .KAS is hired by, works for, and is paid by the Town. We do not work for the state nor are we endorsed by the state. We are on a list of approved consultants the state provides. We do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the PFC sampling. KAS has worked for the Town for many years, well before PFC sampling was instituted. Right before the state required the Town to sample for PFCs, KAS was working to transition the landfill into custodial care which would have greatly reduced the Town’s financial obligations as it pertains to mandated testing requirements for the landfill. Once PFCs were detected in landfill wells, KAS advocated on behalf of the Town to only monitor for PFCs, not the entire list of contaminants previously monitored.
The sampling of the Phelan well was performed in accordance with the protocol for private well sampling. If a pre-filter location cannot be accessed the sampling protocol dictates the sample is to be collected from the next accessible location. In the case of the Phelan well, our technician spent a significant amount of time trying to access a pre-filter location but the configuration of the system prevented this access. The absence of an accessible pre-filter location does not preclude the sampling from progressing. We encountered a similar situation when sampling the Rafus well. The base of the pressure tank was inaccessible therefore a sample was collected at the next accessible location.
The detection in the field blank sample points to a source in the immediate vicinity of the sampling location (ie Phelan kitchen). A quality assurance/quality control (QAQC) sample was also prepared at MW-3 in the exact same manner as the Phelan field blank. A laboratory certified bottle containing “PFC-free” blank water is opened and poured into an empty laboratory provided bottle. The QAQC for MW-3 was non-detect which indicates the source is not the technician, equipment or the “PFC-free” blank water but rather the environment. PFCs are very prevalent in the environment which is one of the reasons QAQC samples are prepared. They are in textiles, Teflon coated pans, soaps, fabric softeners, candy wrappers, pizza boxes….just to name a few. PFCs are not volatile, meaning they do not readily become vapors when exposed to air but they can become airborne. Industrial discharges from smoke stacks is a prime example. The other main reason QAQC samples are prepared is because of the sensitivity of the laboratory analysis. The results are measured in parts per trillion; most environmental sampling is parts per million or parts per billion. The low sensitivity of the test means you need to be very careful in sample handling/procedures and be aware of items in close proximity (soaps, Teflon pots, fabrics etc). Although the technician did not observe absolute PFC containing items, the nature of the sampling location indicates their presence is very likely.
I hope my clarification is helpful. . .”
Gabriel also advised that KAS is willing to join a Selectboard meeting by telephone if that is desired.
Ray Combs wanted to know whether an October test of the Phelan well could be done before the water passes through the filter. Our filter is designed to come off, answered Phelan, but in May the technician was unable to remove it. She said they plan to have a plumber available at the next sampling to remove the filter.
Environmental Court: Lemay Enforcement Complaint
The Environmental Court has asked Town Attorney Bob Fisher to learn if the Town wishes to pursue the zoning violation issue at 194 Green River Road for the purpose of attempting to recoup some of the monies expended in fees and legal costs. Word was received that the shed in question has been sold, but as of last week it had not been removed from the property. Green told Combs a shed larger than allowed had been placed too close to the road, and would interfere with plowing. Rafus the shed was put in place before a zoning permit was issued. Green was of the opinion that the Town would not be able to collect any fines levied, but Sumner said in a previous situation the Town had placed a lien on the property in question. Rafus said that should the Board choose to drop the legal complaint there was a chance the shed would remain where it is, and the Town would have to start the process all over again. Fisher provided an estimate of expenditures to date in the amount of $2,357.39. Sumner made a motion to have the Town Attorney request the Environmental Court continue the Lemay enforcement complaint, to recover $2,357.39. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Road Reclassification Hearing Date Change
Sumner announced that the road reclassification site visit and public hearing dates set at the August 7th Selectboard meeting have been changed by a week, to allow coordination with Whitingham. Aldrich Road, one of the three roads under consideration, abuts the Halifax/Whitingham border. Per Vermont State statute, both towns must publish notice and either hold a joint hearing or separate hearings in that situation. Will Whitingham hold their own hearing?, asked Rafus. The Whitingham Selectboard will probably send one representative to the Halifax hearing. Two newspaper notices will be posted, one for each town. Site visits are now scheduled for Saturday, September 22nd, 2018, with participants meeting in the Halifax Town Office parking lot at 9:00 a.m., and inspecting Aldrich Road first. The public hearing will be held September 25th, 2018, 6:30 p.m., at the Halifax Town Office. Sumner made a motion to change the public hearing date for reclassification of sections of Aldrich and Hall Roads from Class 4 to Class 3, and Old County Road North from legal trail to class 4, to September 25, 2018, 6:30 p.m., at the Town Office, with site visits to occur on September 22, 2018, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Halifax Celebration Branch Road Closure
The Halifax Town Celebration will be held on Saturday, September 29, 2018. Sumner made a motion to close Branch Road from the Brook/Collins/Reed Hill Road intersection to Jacksonville Stage Road (Town Hill), 7:00 a.m. to midnight. Green seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0. Vehicles will be able to access Brook, Reed Hill, and Jacksonville Stage Roads, and can detour the village via Reed Hill and Sprague Roads.
WRC, Town Letter of Interest, Enhanced Energy Element
Sumner advised the Planning Commission voted at their August 14th meeting to submit a letter of interest to Windham Regional Commission requesting consideration for assistance in developing an Act 174-compliant enhanced energy component for the Halifax Town Plan. Selectboard agreement to the proposal is required. We have an adequate energy element in our existing Town Plan, said Gabriel, but if we create an enhanced energy component and incorporate it into our Plan as an amendment in the future, the Town will have a stronger voice, or “due deference” in Vermont Public Utility Commission (formerly Public Service Board) actions. Everett Wilson made the point that to date no one has defined the term due deference. Sumner said grant monies would be available for the project. Green made a motion to sign the Windham Regional Commission letter of interest requesting assistance in creating an Act 174-compliant enhanced energy component for the Halifax Town Plan. Rafus seconded the motion, which passed, 3-0.
Bridge #17 Update
Rafus told the meeting Green River Road is closed this week, to allow repairs to bridge #17, situated west of the Perry Road intersection (below the old Tom O’Brien residence). The original construction plan included fixing two potholes in the deck and repaving the surface. When the old blacktop was removed, however, extensive deck damage was revealed. Rafus had a change order created for the vendor; the road is closed while the upper deck layer is stripped. A membrane will be laid down and the top deck layer replaced before repaving. Funding for the bridge project is through a State grant; Rafus has asked the State whether additional monies are available to cover the unexpected work, but he said the Town’s bridge budget has sufficient funds to cover the cost if needed. The original project cost was $20,000; the complete deck replacement will add another $35,000. Rafus told Combs the bridge deck is comprised of two tiers, a five-inch bottom layer with rebar, and a second, top tier, which also has rebar embedded, and is poured separately. The bottom section is in good condition, but the top tier has a rotted swathe all the way down the center, and must be fully replaced.
Rafus said the hydrology study on the damaged Hatch School Road culvert is complete, bid requests have been sent out, and bids will be opened at the September 4th Selectboard meeting. That will be our last FEMA project from the October 2017 storm.
Executive Session (if needed)
Hearing of Visitors
Is there a date set for repaving Collins Road?, asked Ray Combs. Not yet, replied Rafus; reclaiming should start next week, then we have three culverts to change. Paving will probably begin about the second week of September. Combs said he had worked to clean out a driveway culvert during last week’s storm; he asked if the Town were responsible for driveway culverts. No, said Rafus, they are the property owners’ responsibility, although we will clean them out if we encounter plugged culverts during regular maintenance.
Selectboard’s Order to Treasurer for Payment
The Selectboard’s Order to the Treasurer was reviewed and signed.
Correspondence was reviewed and filed.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.