A former brownfield, Stockbridge Motors site now a clean slate for town

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STOCKBRIDGE — A contaminated former auto repair facility is ready for new life following a major state and federal environmental cleanup at no cost to the town.

The recently concluded three-week project removed about 1,600 tons of gasoline-contaminated soil from the former Stockbridge Motors service station at 4 East St. (Route 7) just north of the business district.

The brownfields cleanup, a joint project of the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also yielded 12,000 gallons of gasoline-contaminated groundwater for disposal.

The entire project cost about $400,000, funded by the state and federal environmental agencies and a $50,000 site-assessment grant secured by Melissa Provencher, environmental and energy program manager at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

The polluted materials were excavated, de-watered and removed to a federally licensed out-of-state facility, interim Town Administrator Mark Webber told the Select Board at a recent meeting. Details of the cleanup were provided by the DEP's Springfield office.

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The project was organized by the DEP in 2017 as part of the state agency's Small Town Environmental Partnership program, which identified the 1,800-square-foot Stockbridge Motors site as "a property of concern."

Federal funding for the cleanup was secured by the DEP from the EPA's Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund.

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After soil and groundwater samples were analyzed, the abandoned property was classified as a risk because of the contaminated soil and groundwater, which required not only excavation but also pumping out remaining gas in the three underground storage tanks, as well as removal of the onetime service station's pump dispensary islands, overhead canopy and underground fuel lines.

Since the underground tanks were found not to be leaking, they were left in place, filled with foam and sealed. The project was completed with restoration and cleanup of the site.

The property can now be taken by the town for unpaid back taxes, a process that already was under way, Webber pointed out. The current owner is Deerhaven Real Estate Trust, representing the estate of Sam Dellea, who died in 2009 after operating the business for nearly 50 years. Stockbridge Motors closed in 2010.

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"Once you pull the final trigger, then the town will get a clean deed for the property and you can think about what you want to do with it," he told the Select Board. "There will be zoning considerations that I don't think were in play in the past."

At various times, the business sold gasoline, repaired vehicles, provided road service and sold used cars as well as early mobile phones at a subsidiary business.

In April 2011, the Select Board approved a special permit for a new, 800-square-foot Sunoco gas station and convenience store at the site. But the prospective purchasers never opened it, apparently because of the cost of dealing with environmental contamination.

Situated in a residential zone, the site had been "grandfathered" for commercial use in the past, but whether it must revert to residential only remains to be determined. One thing it won't be in the future, Webber has pointed out, is an automotive service station.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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