Two things are for certain, to remove the soil contaminated with arsenic and PCBS from the Greenwich High School campus—it's going to take a lot of time...and a lot of money.
In a presentation to the Greenwich Board of Education Thursday night, Greenwich Department of Public Works Commissioner Amy Siebert and environmental consultant Malcolm Beeler, project manager for AECom, laid out the cleanup schedule, development implications and more importantly, the costs involved with removing the contaminated soil from the 10-plus acre campus on Hillside Road.
If the plan to scour up to three-feet of soil from certain athletic fields on the campus is approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the state Department of Health, and funding is approved by various town agencies including the Board of Estimate and Taxation and the Representative Town Meeting, the two-year project could begin in summer 2014, according to Siebert.
The project would be the culmination of two years of testing and analysis of soil that was found to be contaminated back in 2011 when preliminary work for an auditorium expansion project began.
Siebert and Beeler gave a 40-minute presentation and answered questions from the board Thursday night in the board's headquarters, the Havemeyer Building.
The plan is "Highly protective of health and human environment and in compliance in state and federal regulations," Beeler said. He said that the work on the project will mean "restricted access" to the high school which will prompt the relocation of summer school classes to Central Middle School as well as town Parks and Recreation Department athletic programs. At best, minimal school maintenance staff will be allowed in the school during the project, Beehler said.
Siebert said that project is now estimated to cost $13 to $17 million as opposed to estimates of $13 to $20 million and estimates that board members said hedged close to the $100 million mark.
The remediation plan—which is posted on the Board of Education website and the Greenwich High School website—is now in the "comment phase," according to Siebert. The public may post comments about the proposal on the websites until Oct. 5, before the federal and state agencies begin their deliberations. Officials are hoping those federal and state approvals will come by January.
If those approvals come through, it will allow the Board of Ed, via the Department of Public Works, to seek funding approvals from town agencies. Siebert said the town will seek to pre-approve environmental excavation contractors who would be eligible to bid for the work, to minimize contractual negotiation time.
"We don't want your typical backyard excavator" bidding on the job, Siebert said.
Regarding cost, Siebert said the cost range was $13 to $20 million. "The cost estimate is more like $13 to $17 million…we’re hopeful…we’re hopeful it will stay in that range and hopeful that it will be in lower range." Board member Nancy Kail said the estimate is far less than previously reported estimates that hovered close to $100 million.
Conducting the soil removal and replacement work will mean coordination among various town departments and contractors as the Music and Instructional Space and Auditorium (commonly known as MISA) continues, Siebert and Beeler said.
"It will be great to coordinate with MISA…..let us get in there and get it done," Siebert said.
There weren't any objections voiced by the education board which is now scheduled to take a vote on the proposal at its October meeting.
Board of Estimate and Taxation Chair Michael Mason said following the meeting, that the plan "Seems to be a reasonable level of remediation in the plan to increase the confidence that there isn't any danger for anyone as the property is currently used for." He added, "The BET will have the opportunity to review the plan and make decisions on funding, method of funding. We will want to know the all in costs including traffic control. Legal cost, project management, general conditions etc."
There are many ramifications the project will have, if approved.
- Summer school classes for GHS students in 2014 and 2015 will be held elsewhere, most likely Central Middle School.
- "The first remedial action would occur during the summer break of summer 2014…in the areas around west parking lot and some areas of southeast corner," Beeler said. Construction would end before school starts….."and pick up and complete in summer 2015, (however, it is) weather dependent. If something major happens, we may have to reschedule and it will take three years."
- No one other than construction crews and high school building maintenance personnel would be allowed on the campus.
- There will be air monitoring during all work, measuring contaminants in dust created by the excavation.
- There will be barriers to prevent storm water runoff from the site.
- Upon completion of excavation, soil and grass replenishment will be either sod or soil and grass seed. There also will be a tree and landscape replacement plan, Beehler said.
- All personnel will be subject to health monitoring.
- Deed restrictions regarding future construction and utility installation will be placed on land records.