November 28, 2012

Contaminated soil bumps fire hall cost

As published in The Erin Advocate

Dealing with cadmium-contaminated soil has increased the cost of construction for the new fire hall in Hillsburgh, a project already plagued by soil problems.

Construction crews encountered the contamination in the front driveway area, and investigation showed that it came from a truck fire in the early 1990s.

A truck with a load of batteries caught fire while traveling on Trafalgar Road, and the driver pulled into the fire station for help. The fire was extinguished, but the chemicals that leaked from the batteries were not cleaned up.

"They weren't used to remediation – it wasn't tested, and we're now dealing with it," said Fire Chief Dan Callaghan, who came to Town Council last week requesting an additional $40,000 for contingency expenses. It was unanimously approved.

Callaghan said it may be possible to recover some money from the insurance company of the original polluter, but records of the incident have been difficult to trace. Anyone with specific information about the fire, especially the date, should contact the town.

Architect Joe Somfay said in a letter that the cost of moving the contaminated soil to a facility in Chatham "would have been exorbitant".

Callaghan said some of the soil has been used as backfill, while the most contaminated has been sealed in place with nine-foot deep cement barriers. He assured Mayor Lou Maieron that the soil engineers have ruled out problems with water run-off or leaching.

"We have contained the contamination to its present location – it is not a hazard to leave it on site," he said. "In place, it's fine. It's actually under the parking lot."

The problem was discovered because of other unstable soil, with buried organic matter, which had to be excavated to ensure proper construction of the new building. Some money had already been budgeted to deal with soil issues, but in April, an extra $150,000 was added to the project.

With the latest addition, the project is now $190,000 over budget. Extra costs related to soils total $254,000 (including previously budgeted amounts), while extra costs for the building will total $66,000. The Town has borrowed $2.1 million over 20 years to cover most of the overall cost of the project.