Fairfield DPW: Field testing and cleanup will likely exceed $1.8 million
FAIRFIELD — Testing and cleaning up the town’s contaminated parks and fields will likely cost more than the originally predicted $1.8 million. The price hike came from discovering legacy contaminants unrelated to the fill pile, the Department of Public Works said.
Interim DPW Director Brian Carey shared this news with the Board of Finance Tuesday night, following the board’s internal election that named former vice-chair Jim Brown as chairman. The position was filled for 10 years by now-Selectman Tom Flynn.
The board voted in October to set aside $1.8 million for the fill pile issue. The Finance and Public Works departments had previously estimated the number as the total cost for testing and getting rid of contaminants from the Julian-enterprise managed fill pile.
The pile is the subject of an ongoing criminal case that has charged two former Public Works employees with accepting bribes to allow Julian to dump truck loads of contaminated waste into the pile. Julian then resold some of the contaminated soil as clean fill for construction projects across town.
But testing has uncovered a number of areas affected by legacy issues unrelated to the fill pile, including urbanization, decades-old construction projects and historic chemical and pesticide use at sites including Gould Manor Park, Jennings Elementary School and Ludlowe High School. This has bumped up the price of testing and cleanup.
The town has tested almost 70 sites at parks, fields and playgrounds and so far identified nine areas that need to be cleaned up. 14 sites remain to be tested, according to the town’s supplemental testing list.
As of now, $1.4 million is the estimated cost of investigating and remediating these sites. But given the non-Julian contamination they’ve found so far, Carey said it’s likely that yet-undiscovered costs of cleanup will put them over the $1.8 million-mark.
But the board prepared for such a situation back in October, setting aside an additional $2.7 million for unknown expenses that might come up related to the fill pile. They’ll dip into these funds to pay for the additional costs, the board said.
Cleanup has concluded at Burroughs Park, and it is ongoing at Gould Manor Park and Jennings Elementary School. Projects are in the works for cleanup at Osborn Hill Elementary School, Jennings Beach Playground, Old Dam Road’s tennis bubble, Mill Hill Elementary School, McKinley Elementary School and Fairfield Ludlowe High School.
Carey assured the board that, although it may seem slow-going, the town is proceeding with testing and cleanup as fast as they can.
“I think we’re finally getting our hands around it, but it’s going to take a while,” Carey said.
Carey also discussed a recent notice of violation from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), which charged the town with additional cleanup of the fill pile itself, located on Richard White Way.
Carey said the notice was vague — likely due to the state’s ongoing criminal investigation on the subject — and he does not yet know what exactly DEEP is asking of the town.
“There will obviously be costs associated with that, but I don’t know what they will be,” Carey said of potential cleanup DEEP might require at the fill pile.
First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick was set to visit DEEP Wednesday in the hopes of gaining some clarity on this request.