Arsenic traces found in Baron’s South soil pile
WESTPORT — The town-owned Baron’s South property again drew concern from residents after a new report revealed traces of arsenic were found in the soil pile there.
Cody Ehlers Group, which was contracted in May to perform chemical analyses on the material, reported no traces of asbestos or PCBs, but found arsenic in one of the four samples tested. Tolune was the only volatile organic compound found, but concentrations were well below the guidelines, according to the report.
“The only compound that came up with a bulls-eye on its back was arsenic,” Steve Edwards, an environmental consultant, told the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday.
The sample showed a concentration of 13 milligrams per kilogram of the compound, he said, 3 milligrams above the Residential and Industrial/Commercial Direct Exposure criteria.
The surplus soil has been on the property since 2018, when it was moved there following a building expansion at the Westport Senior Center. Edwards said a $40,000 cost for trucking and disposal deterred a decision to haul the material off site at the time.
“The material was then temporarily stockpiled at the southern part of the property,” he said. “It’s important to note all of the material in that stockpile was from on site. There was no trucking in.”
The property was formerly the location of a greenhouse and swimming pool owned by the Austrian Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff, and the town purchased the property after Langer died. Edwards explained there could be various reasons why the arsenic traces are in the soil.
The area was a very popular site for rodents, he said, and extensive gardens and gardening activities also occurred at the location.
“So if Baron had any kind of seeds or things like that, arsenic was used to control rodents,” he said.
Public Works Director Peter Ratkiewich said he hopes to have the pile moved in the coming months, suggesting it could be placed under Green Farms Station’s parking lot or the Baldwin parking lot.
Edwards said most of the pile could be used unrestricted while the arsenic “hot spot” is placed under an asphalt parking lot, but added the intent should be to place the entire pile under a parking lot.
“The important component on any construction site like this where you put a stockpile. When you remove the stockpile, the area must be restored,” Edwards said.
Morley Boyd, a town historic preservation activist, was concerned the pile was above ground and exposed.
“There’s nothing around it and it’s not netted,” he said, noting he worried about kids playing on the pile.
Helen Garten, a Westport resident, said she was concerned that three-quarters of the soil could be used for other municipal projects, adding she hopes the entire pile is placed under a parking lot.
“My understanding is if you only take four boring holes and you find something, the best practice is to assume there may be contamination on the rest of the site as well,” she said.
Meanwhile, Westport resident John Suggs said the entire mound needed to be viewed as contaminated.
“I want to see this entire mound taken out of its present location and disposed of according to (CT) DEEP guidelines,” he said. “The last thing I want to see is this stuff being carted across town to my neighborhood to be dumped into the Green Farms parking lot.”
Chip Stephens, of Westport, said no matter the scientific findings or results, the report alone would concern residents.
“You try bringing this to any area you’re going to have an outcry,” Stephens said. “My suggestion is just get rid of this stuff.”
Selectwoman Melissa Kane recommended the soil pile to be tested again once it’s moved to address public concerns.