Bowitch Negotiates Deal with EPA on Brownfield Site

Article published in on May 25, 0016  (website link or PDF)

Former Sealand industrial site in Lisbon could be returned to tax rolls; $1.5 million lien to be removed


After more than 25 years in limbo, St. Lawrence County hopes to bring the 210-acre former Sealand dumpsite back on the tax rolls.

St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen Button says the federal Environmental Protection Agency had placed a $1.5 million lien on the property for remediation and testing work it has performed on the site over the past 25 years, but a deal has now been reached with the county to waive that cost in exchange for half of the sale price.

“It’s a really great thing,” he said. “This should let us get the property back on the tax rolls and generating revenues."

Button credited Gary S. Bowitch of Bowitch & Coffey, for making the deal come to fruition. He said Bowitch is tuned in with the Department of Environmental Conservation and EPA and has been instrumental in getting assistance from the EPA to test and remediate various sites at minimal costs to the county.

The Sealand deal is just the latest in a series of cooperative efforts between St. Lawrence County and the EPA. Bowitch has been at the forefront of similar, but smaller projects in Lisbon, Potsdam and Gouverneur. See more on those projects here.

“We have a spectacular resource in Gary Bowitch,” Button said.

Back taxes on the property are around $32,000 according to Button.

The site was operated as a dairy farm before it was sold to Sealand Restoration in 1977. It was shutdown just three years later by the DEC after it was determined that unacceptable materials had been dumped at the site.

Button said groundwater was contaminated with heavy metals and volatile organic compounds that are potentially harmful contaminants.

Soils on the property were found to contain low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, heavy metals and phenols, which are chemicals used to make plastics and detergents.

Surface water was also contaminated with metals. However the EPA put a long-term cleanup remedy plan in place to address those issues.

Although the site is not completely remediated, the EPA says potential or actual human exposures are under control.

Once the lien is lifted and the county forecloses on the site, the EPA will put some restrictions on property’s groundwater. But, Button says the agency will continue to monitor the site and the future buyer won’t be stuck with remediation costs associated with the property.

“That in and of itself is key to this,” he said.

Button says there are already buyers interested in purchasing the large plot of land and he expects multiple bidders will attend if and when the property goes up for auction.

On Monday, the Finance Committee approved a resolution that would allow the county to sign off on the deal, but it will need approval from the full board of legislators in June.

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