March 25, 2010

 

Vernay buys Rabbit Run farm

In late February Vernay Laboratories, Inc. purchased the 7.5-acre Rabbit Run Farm that lies to the east of its former plant site on Dayton Street.

Vernay purchased the property, which was affected by the chemical contamination from the adjacent industrial site, to gain long-term access to the monitoring wells on the property, Vernay’s President and CEO Ed Urquhart said on Tuesday from his office in Atlanta. The company plans to keep the property undeveloped to facilitate the management of testing and potential remediation activity that may be necessary in the future. Vernay had not considered purchasing the property until after Home, Inc. dropped a purchase option on it in December, Urquhart said, adding that the company has no interest in purchasing any of the other properties surrounding its Dayton Street site.

Rabbit Run owner Suzanne Patterson declined to comment on the sale, and according to Barry Reich, the local attorney who handled the transaction, the seller was bound by a confidentiality provision in the purchase contract.

After the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency discovered chemical contamination on Vernay’s Dayton Street property in 1998, a handful of neighbors sued Vernay for damages and the right to oversee the cleanup effort with the U.S. EPA. Patterson did not join that neighbors’ suit, but brought an independent suit against the company. In 2004 Vernay and Patterson reached a settlement, but the parties were bound not to disclose the terms of the agreement, the Yellow Springs News reported in October of that year. Urquhart said this week that purchasing Rabbit Run had not been part of the settlement agreement.

As part of the cleanup measure, Vernay installed monitoring wells on the Rabbit Run property and found the volatile organic compounds tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene deep in the acquifer below the farm. The company then installed two capture wells on its Dayton Street site to treat the groundwater below that site and Rabbit Run. The company is also obliged to continue to monitor a larger plume for potential migration of contamination outside the capture area for the next 30 years.

Vernay stated in a health indicator report in 2004 that the contamination does not pose a threat because there is no potential for human contact with it. The U.S. EPA has so far not raised any major objections to Vernay’s reports and cleanup methods. But for safe measure, the drinking water wells on Rabbit Run have been permanently capped, and the property owners have been restricted to using Village water.

Home, Inc. had a purchase option on the farm last fall when the affordable housing group was exploring the possibility of building a mixed housing development there. Home, Inc. terminated the contract in late December because its leaders needed more time to establish a development partner for its housing project, and Patterson could not extend the purchase option past the June 2010 deadline.

An organic vegetable farm and orchard has been located at Rabbit Run since the mid-1980s, most recently operated by Patterson. She had previously said that she was looking to retire from farming and downsize her holdings. She plans to remain in Yellow Springs.

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