Home City park Stamford dug up contaminated soil at Boccuzzi Park. A city project faces cost overruns to remedy this.

Stamford dug up contaminated soil at Boccuzzi Park. A city project faces cost overruns to remedy this.

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STAMFORD – A construction project in Boccuzzi Park has dug up arsenic-contaminated soil, and the planned cleanup has resulted in cost overruns as the city seeks to ensure the material is processed according to state guidelines.

The contaminated soil was discovered as workers were digging the ground to install drainage structures as part of a utility project. Under a rental agreement with SoundWaters, the city is responsible for providing utility connections – including electricity, water and gas – for the non-profit education center under construction. in the Boccuzzi park.

The utility work, which began in the fall, is about halfway through and is expected to cost around $ 2 million. Stamford has agreed to cover most of the project cost overruns.

At a Finance Council meeting this month, City Engineer Lou Casolo requested that $ 400,000 be allocated to cover the costs of a number of unforeseen expenses – many of which relate to the unexpected discovery of what he described as “impacted” soil.

The area was once industrial property, he said. It could have been a marine facility at one point or a landfill site. It may also have been the site of a chocolate factory.

“It’s problematic on two fronts,” Casolo said of the material. “It contains environmental contaminants, mainly arsenic in this case.”

Then, said Casolo, there are issues with the “structural features” of the soil and its ability to support the weight of drainage structures.

The Finance Council – after asking a slew of questions about the floor and the allocation of cost overruns with SoundWaters – approved the request with a 5-1 vote. The Tax Committee of the Council of Representatives is expected to discuss the matter later this month.

The only “no” vote came from JR McMullen, a new Republican member of the Finance Council who was previously a city representative. During the meeting, McMullen asked if the soil surrounding the project site could also be contaminated.

“Well that would be below the surface,” Casolo said. “It would be underground material. It has not been fully examined. We try to minimize any disruption, but if you dig in you might find more.

“So as long as we remain ignorant, we don’t have to worry about it?” McMullen asked.

“I’m not saying that,” Casolo said.

McMullen pushed back, repeating his question and adding that his concern is that the city “will spend $ 2 million or $ 3 or $ 4 million on this park and will later have to create a superfund site to address it.”

The city has a larger plan to make changes to the park around SoundWaters’ upcoming education center.

Sandy Dennies, the town’s director of administration, intervened, noting that she was serving in the administration of then-mayor Dannel P. Malloy when Stamford was named a brownfield “showcase community” by the federal government.

“My understanding is that if we don’t dig up any soil, (then) we don’t have an obligation to deal with soil contamination,” Dennies said. “We have an obligation when we impact the soil, and that’s why Lou is asking here for the funds to be able to mitigate or remediate the soil along the road to this site. But… if you don’t touch the floors and bring this hazardous waste to the surface, you don’t have to clean it up.

Still, David Mannis, a member of the Democratic Finance board, said there might be “some discomfort in learning that there is arsenic in the soil of a public park.”

And Dennis Mahoney – who like McMullen is a new member of the Finance Council and a former Republican City representative – said the issue “deserves further consideration by the city to ensure public safety.”

Leigh Shemitz, president of SoundWaters, said members of the public shouldn’t worry about walking in the park as the construction site is fenced.

The larger plan for the park, she added, “will ultimately improve the environmental quality” of the region. This plan includes moving a parking lot to the water’s edge and replacing it with a so-called dune habitat.

“This project ultimately helps create a much more resilient and healthy coastal site,” said Shemitz. “What you have right on the water’s edge right now… (is) a huge paved space that has all kinds of runoff, and we clean it up all the time.”

Exhuming from the ground can be a “hiccup” in terms of construction, she said, “but the end result will be a much healthier site.”

The floor was stacked and covered with plastic, in accordance with a “soil management plan” put in place for such situations, Casolo told the finance council. There are options for treating the material, he explained, including taking it to a landfill or placing it under an impermeable surface, such as pavement.

The latter option “could be a more cost effective way to manage it,” Casolo said. “But the problem is, we can’t change the grades too much because that will affect everything that supports the design. “

Stamford’s director of public safety, health and welfare Ted Jankowski said the issue had been brought to his attention and he had been in contact with the town’s engineering department as well. than an environmental consultant.

“There is a DEEP-compliant soil management plan in place, prepared by Triton Environmental Inc.,” Jankowski said in a statement this week. “If areas during construction are disturbed and contaminants discovered, they will be managed appropriately in accordance with the soil management plan. “

He added that no one has “reported any release other than soil disturbance during this project.”

Casolo estimated that taking care of the “impacted” soil would cost around $ 120,000. There were also costs associated with testing the soil and storing it.

Earlier this year, after receiving no bidders for the utility project, the city made an arrangement for the SoundWaters contractor to do the work. Under an agreement between the city and SoundWaters, the city is responsible for covering 75 percent of the project cost overruns.

The $ 400,000 requested by Casolo would also cover unforeseen costs unrelated to the soil problem, including rock pounding and the removal of a concrete slab. The city has yet to determine how it will charge SoundWaters for its share of the costs, Casolo said.

The allocation of costs drew criticism from the Finance Council.

“It’s not a good contract, is it?” Said Mary Lou Rinaldi, Democrat and vice-chair of the board. “Because we find ourselves holding the bag. “

Casolo told the Stamford Advocate that the 75-25 split “seemed like a fair way to deal with unexpected conditions.”

He also noted that soil drilling had been carried out in the area before construction began, but no problematic material had been discovered by then.

“The drilling results were to be expected – sandy material, gravel, groundwater,” Casolo said. “Looking at soil surveys, it’s hard to predict environmental issues because the surveys don’t show it. “

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