Remediation plan outlined by town

The town has identified a plan to deal with contaminated soil at Greenwich High School and now the public will be able to have its say.

The plan was officially outlined at a presentation last Friday by town Commissioner of Public Works Amy Siebert. Under the plan, soil contaminated by polychlorinated biophenyls (PCBs) and other heavy metals will be removed from the impacted fields during the 2014 and 2015 summer breaks. A public hearing will be held on this Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. at GHS. The Board of Education will hold a vote in October on this option, but only as an endorsement since the final decision is the town’s, subject to this plan getting the approval of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Under the remediation plan, the areas to the south and west of field three will be excavated to one foot below the ground surface. A portion of field two will have excavation done to two feet below the ground surface. The area to the east of fields two, three and four, along with a portion of field five, will have excavation done to three feet below the ground surface. The soil will be removed and transported to facilities in New York and Michigan that can handle the contamination.

There will be other areas dealt with as part of the full remediation of the GHS fields, and the entire plan is posted online at Greenwichschools.org/page.cfm?p=10019. Temporary measures to cap the contaminated soil will remain in effect through this school year, and the district and the town said this will continue to allow all the fields to be safely used without exposure.

“This is a reasonable, safe and effective plan,” Ms. Siebert said.

The district will also be taking public comment on the plan at that link on its website. That opportunity will be in place through Oct. 5. Members of the community will also be able to speak at Board of Education meetings with public hearings.

If the plan gets EPA approval, the work will be done over the next two summers in an effort to have as little disruption of school activities as possible and with the intention each year of being finished in time for fall sports. However, since the fields are used by the town during the summer, that means there will be rescheduling for youth sports leagues. Ms. Siebert said a plan for this is not finalized but is being developed by Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Siciliano.

Additionally, there will be no summer school at GHS during the next two years so the work may proceed. The district says it’s been preparing for this, and while a plan is not yet finalized, one of the three midle schools will likely be used. But Ms. Siebert said that work on the music instructional space and auditorium (MISA) project at GHS will be able to move forward during the remediation.

What is also unknown still is how much this remediation will cost. Ms. Siebert told the Post that the price tag is still expected to be between $13 million and $20 million, but an actual cost estimate has not been made.

“We’re hopeful it will come in at the bottom part of that range, but of course we need to wait until we get the estimate and we’ve reviewed it as a team to make sure we got everything in there properly,” Ms. Siebert said. “And then we have to wait until we get our actual bids.”

There is an effort by State Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149th) to secure state grant money to help defer the cost of the remediation. Ms. Siebert stressed it was important “not to count those chickens before they’re hatched” but the town was “always open” to finding sources of assistance like that.

Ms. Floren told the Post the entire Greenwich delegation is behind the effort and that they’ve appealed to the state’s  Office of Economic and Community Development and the Office of Police Management.

“I am very hopeful we will shake the money tree,” Ms. Floren said.

Ms. Siebert said if the plan gets the EPA approval it needs, then project specifications may be developed over the late fall and winter. Then the project can go out to bid in the spring so work can proceed during the summer. Ms. Siebert added that there is “good confidence that this is good to go” with regard to the EPA’s signoff, but that won’t be the only approval the project will need. The Board of Estimate and Taxation and Representative Town Meeting needs to approve the budget line for it.

“We want to hit the ground the day school ends,” Ms. Siebert said.

Board of Education Chairman Leslie Moriarty said at the presentation that she believed that this plan addressed the issue in a “reasonable and effective manner” and thanked Ms. Siebert, Department of Public Works staff and outside consultants from AECOM for their work.

“The goals of the Board of Education are to insure that we have a site that is safe and protects human health and the environment, as well as one that can be maintained without special measures,” Ms. Moriarty said. “We are appreciative that DPW is giving us an opportunity, through this option, to be able to operate normally once this work is completed. We believe the site will be left in the same, or even improved, condition as far as the users are concerned.”

Superintendent of Schools William McKersie also was at the presentation and said he believed this was a data-based solution to a very complex problem with expert opinions being used.

“We very much have a clear sense of what matters most,” Dr. McKersie said. “That’s the health, safety and well being of anyone in or around our schools. That’s our students but also our staff and parents who may be visiting and anyone coming upon our fields or buildings. No one is taking any chances here with health, safety and well-being… I feel very, very confident both as a superintendent and now a parent in the district that the right things are getting done here.”

 

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