The town has until tomorrow to buy a 13-acre Blanchard Street farm.

So tonight, selectmen hope to learn that removing a banned pesticide from the farmland's soil won't cost a fortune.

"Even with a couple thousand dollars of mitigation costs, it's still a valuable property to us," said Selectmen Chairman Major. "One of the potential uses is a school, long-term. Short-term I could see some fields there."

Tests before Town Meeting on the property revealed small amounts of the pesticide dieldrin, but residents encouraged selectmen to pursue buying the land anyway. Selectmen want to confirm that there is only a small amount of the pesticide, which is banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. If so, they will buy the land.

"I am hopeful the study results confirm the amount of chemical that's in the soil to be something we can deal with at a reasonable cost," said Selectman Alex Vispoli. "I think that's really the only determining factor."

The decision on whether to buy 15 Blanchard St. will be the only item on the selectmen's agenda tonight,Thursday, at a 7 p.m. meeting in Town Offices.

The Lowell-based consulting group TRC is scheduled to present its findings after conducting a second round of tests at the farm this week.

The farm is west of Interstate 93 and south of Route 133 near Tewksbury.

Before the final night of Town Meeting on April 30, TRC presented its initial test results to selectmen. In these first tests, dieldrin was found in the soil in one of five locations, prompting the board to recommend withdrawing an article authorizing the purchase of the farm.

However, Town Meeting voters thought the opportunity was too good to pass up, and gave selectmen permission to buy the land for $2.1 million.

Selectmen remain concerned over how much pesticide is in the farm's soil.

Dieldrin was banned outright by the EPA in 1987 and can cause convulsions and even death if ingested in large amounts. In the air, it can cause headaches, dizziness and irritability, and has also been identified as a probable carcinogen by the EPA.

"I fully suspect there's going to be some kind of mitigation," said Major. "I can't tell you what the cost could be."

Andover is paying TRC $17,500 for the second round of tests. The consultants are expected to test the soil for PCBs, arsenic, metals and pesticides, and also set up three wells to examine any ground water on the property.

Twenty-six soil-test locations, an average of two per-acre, have been set up on the farm. Samples have been taken at depths up to three feet. TRC will provide selectmen with their options on removing any contaminated soil tonight.

According to Major, the initial findings of dieldrin only came within the first foot | a sign that removal could be affordable.

"If it's deeper, you have to dig up more stuff, so it becomes much more expensive to remediate" said Major. "Having it near the surface is much better."

Because 15 Blanchard St. is zoned for agricultural use, the town was granted the right to match an offer after the land was put on the market last year.

Though that right expired last month, the property owner granted an extension, which expires tomorrow. If selectmen vote against purchasing the farm, it will likely return to the open market.

"We've always been very interested in buying the property," said Vispoli. "I think it's definitely a good opportunity."

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