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Toxic Paint May Stymie Vt. Armory Renovation Plan

St. Johnsbury, Vt. — Contaminated paint on the floor of an old armory in St. Johnsbury could derail plans to convert the building into a museum of local artifacts.

An environmental study of the armory that was closed in 2009 determined the paint on the concrete basement floor contain levels of cancer-causing PCBs that are 100 times the allowable level, said a report by the St. Johnsbury History and Heritage Center, which is leasing the building from the town.

“The bad news is, there’s a new issue that comes down from above, or from below depending on how you look at it,” said Bob Desrochers, a History and Heritage Center board member. The center plans another study to determine the extent of contamination. “If it’s simply the paint that needs to be removed, it’s simply a big problem,” Desrochers told The Caledonian Record. “If the PCBs have leached into the concrete below, it could be a humongous problem. If it did leach, then there are two options for remediation. One route is to remove the concrete, jackhammer it up or saw it, and take the chunks out. The other way is to encapsulate it. They’re both going to be very expensive.”

In December, town officials approved the $1 lease for the building with an option to buy. The decision on whether the center could buy the property depended on the results of the study that found the contamination.