The Easton Village Store on Sport Hill Road closed its doors in June but monitoring wells outside the store continue to test for traces of contaminants in the groundwater and in nearby supply wells.

The results of extensive testing have concluded that the groundwater, potable water and well water are all safe. Analysis of the water samples has concluded that the quality of the groundwater at the EVS site and the water in adjacent supply wells all meet the Connecticut Groundwater Protection Criteria and the Connecticut Water Quality Standards.

The monitoring at the store is being done by Bridgeport-based Advanced Environmental Redevelopment (AER) under the supervision of the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) in coordination with local officials.

EVS owner Marsel Huribal was ordered by state environmental officials last year to monitor the wells when contaminated soil was found after three gasoline tanks were removed on his property in Feb. 2022.

Deputy Fire Marshal Schuyler Sherwood said his office oversaw the removal of the tanks in February and continues to follow up with AER, the environmental consultant, and state environmental officials.

“We are making sure they are doing their due diligence,” said Sherwood.

According to AER’s initial November report, nine water supply wells in close proximity to the EVS site were tested, including the Easton Volunteer Fire Department on Center Road, Silverman’s Farm on Sport Hill Road, and two LLCs and several private residences on Old Oak and Sport Hill roads. The analysis of the results concluded that “groundwater in adjacent potable water supply wells met the Groundwater Protection Criteria and the Connecticut water Quality Standards.”

AER also conducted a Sensitive Environmental Receptor Survey (SERS) in September of the 15 private water supply wells that are located within a 500-foot buffer surrounding the EVS site, and reported that “no residents have reported any petroleum impact.”

The most recent testing analysis from February obtained by the Courier from DEEP reported that additional EVS site remediation had been completed and that the latest results of testing “indicate that groundwater beneath the [EVS] site complies with the [water quality] criteria. No contaminants were detected above the laboratory method detection limit.”

After the excavation of the tanks from the EVS property in February 2022, mounds of dirt were left under tarps and remained in the parking lot for an extended period of time. Huribal says the contractor claimed he did not know the soil was contaminated, mainly with petroleum and lead, and also moved a pile of soil to the back of the property.

The soil sat on Huribal’s property for months while he looked for a company to haul it away. A processing plant in the state that accepts contaminated fill was closed at the time, he said. The soil was eventually removed in June and July, and disposed of in New Jersey by Soil Safe Inc.

A resident whose home abuts the store’s property raised concerns about the standing pile of soil, and Easton’s Conservation Commission officials became concerned that it would contaminate nearby wetlands. The commission cited Huribal for several permit violations related to the excavation and for moving the soil within 100 feet of wetlands.

Although Huribal says the Easton Village Store had not been turning a profit even before the pandemic or the tank removal, he says the costs associated with the site cleanup forced him to shut down EVS for good.

“We operated at a loss and employed twelve people. We even stayed open during Covid because it was important for the community to have a place like that,” said Huribal. “When we identified the [soil] contamination and started getting the cost for remediating the issue that wasn’t going to get covered by insurance it forced us to close.

“It’s just snowballed,” said Huribal. “I spent $250,000 on the clean up out of my own pocket because insurance doesn’t cover the cost.”

Steve Montgomery, the resident who raised concerns about the soil, has publicly criticized the town for the way it handled the removal of the gas tanks and for what he felt was an inadequate response to his concerns. First Selectman David Bindelglass has said the town could have been more responsive to Montgomery’s complaints and that the town will be more vigilant about similar cases in the future.

The results of the tests of Montgomery’s well water were among those included in the November AER report. All of the samples collected to date have tested “below the Connecticut Groundwater Protection Criteria and the Connecticut Water Quality Standards … and as such, the potable water sample collected from this well meets Connecticut water quality criteria for the tested constituents,” stated DEEP representative Paul Copeland in an email to the Courier.

Dori Wollen, chairman of the town’s Conservation Commission, said Huribal has completed an “After the Fact” application for the five violations when he dumped and removed soil, and brought in soil into an area within 100 feet of wetlands without a permit.

Huribal must now pay the fines levied against him and seed or plant bushes on the property acceptable to the Wetlands Enforcement Officer, according to Wollen.

“The commission will take a site walk of the property to confirm the work he has done is correct or if he needs to do more work,” said Wollen.

Huribal said he’s also working with Easton’s Planning and Zoning Commission and is in the process of planting grass and trees on the property in lieu of gravel. The monitoring wells will remain in place and testing will continue at least through the summer to comply with DEEP’s requirements.

The Courier will continue to monitor the testing and remediation process and report any significant developments.

The Nov. 2002 testing report can be accessed here.

The Feb. 2023 testing report can be accessed here.

The documentation for the June 2022 soil disposal can be accessed here.

The documentation for the July 2023 soil disposal can be accessed here.

The documentation for the Feb. 2022 tank removal can be accessed here.

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