WALPOLE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Walpole a $500,000 grant to clean up a contaminated property near the center of town.
The money will help pay for remediation at the former Westminster Street location of Central Plating, Inc. The company dissolved around 2006.
“I honestly don’t know what they plated, but the land is full of chromium and other nasty things that are carcinogenic,” said Peggy Pschirrer, a member of the Walpole Board of Selectmen.
Recent environmental testing found chromium, PFAS chemicals and other contamination at the Central Plating site. A group of manmade chemicals used in consumer products and industrial processes, PFAS have been linked to negative health effects, and some have been phased out in the United States, according to the EPA.
The planned cleanup involves taking down a 1,000-square-foot shed, removing the impacted soil and replacing it with new fill, according to Pschirrer.
Town officials ultimately hope to pave the land, creating 40 much-needed parking spaces in the center of town, she said.
The property consists of two adjoining parcels totaling less than one-third of an acre. The town has owned the land since early January, when it bought it for $1 from the estate of Nils A. Westberg, Central Plating’s owner.
The EPA awards brownfields assessment and cleanup grants to “under-served and economically disadvantaged communities” hoping to repurpose former industrial or commercial sites, according a recent news release from the agency announcing the awards.
Pschirrer thinks Walpole’s application was helped by the fact that redeveloping the Central Plating site as a parking lot could boost the local economy. She said there’s a need for parking in the area, which has a library, banks, restaurants and other businesses.
“That’s not very sexy,” she said of plans for parking, “but that’s exactly what we need in the center of town.”
Town officials also envision charging stations for electric vehicles and a small seating area, she said.
Pschirrer said she hopes to complete the cleanup within two years, starting with the formation of a citizens committee to solicit bids from qualified contractors.
The cleanup costs are estimated at about $740,000, and town officials don’t anticipate using taxpayer funds. In addition to the $500,000 from the EPA, the N.H. Department of Environmental Services has said it intends to award the town a $100,000 cleanup grant. The Westberg estate has also contributed $175,000, held in escrow, according to Pschirrer.
The EPA grant comes with a requirement that recipients put up some of their own money as a match, but Walpole obtained a waiver, Pschirrer said. She called that “the icing on the cake.”
After the cleanup, town officials will propose a warrant article asking voters to authorize the parking-lot construction, she said.