Money isn’t the only issue facing the Southington Middle School Building Committee as they await the results – and cost estimates – for environmental remediation of asbestos, lead and PCBs from the Kennedy and DePaolo middle schools.
It appears the committee is now be racing the clock as well.
Edward Pocock Jr., chairman of the building committee, said this week that the town still has a lot of work and budget planning to do before the first shovel hits the ground by June and when the committee receives the results and cost estimates for both interior and exterior remediation of environmental hazards sometime in the next two weeks, it will need to work quickly to determine the next course of action.
“We have a lot to figure out and until we have solid numbers and a clear picture of what needs to be done, it’s difficult to move forward,” Pocock said. “It’s crunch time. We are coming down to the wire.”
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Hygenix, Inc., an environmental consulting firm working alongside Newfield Construction as part of the town’s middle school renovation project, took 255 samples from the two schools last weekend to determine whether any PCBs had spread to materials in direct contact, Pocock said. These samples included testing of calking and from underneath the sidewalks, officials said.
The company will also be conducting oil remediation this weekend at DePaolo, after the pump truck was unavailable last weekend when the work was originally planned, Pocock said.
Understanding and Remediating Environmental Hazards
Testing in September . Air quality testing was done at both schools as a safety precaution and found no existence of PCBs or asbestos and no immediate danger for those regularly using the buildings now.
The find wasn’t surprising, but the cost estimates were as town officials indicated that they are preparing for a figure in the millions.
It’s a far cry from predictions of $50,000 for remediation submitted by representatives of EnviroMed Services, Inc., a Stratford-based environmental consulting firm hired by Fletcher Thompson as part of the middle school feasibility study in 2011.
The heavy increases in costs, attributed to a change in federal Environmental Protection Agency standards after the EnviroMed Services completed their study, is something that has caught the attention of the Southington Town Council and Board of Education.
Town Council and Board of Education Responses
Earlier this week, council members including Chairman John Dobbins, Peter Romano and John Barry expressed concerns with the EPA regulations and findings. Romano, in discussing a request by local resident Art Cyr, suggested this week that the town consider looking into combatting the EPAs growingly stringent regulations. The town is also facing extensive costs for phosphorus removal from the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which it is currently fighting.
“These guys never stop,” Romano said. “We can’t plan for this continued legislation and we don’t know what that legislation will be until it passes.”
Barry questioned the EnviroMed report, however, saying he believes they should have kept up on regulations being considered. Romano said he doesn’t believe the company is to blame however.
The council, in a statement by Dobbins, also encouraged the schools to take a look at the remaining locations that have not been renovated – Flanders Elementary, Derynoski Elementary and Kelley Elementary were all last built or renovated in or before the 1970s – to make sure air quality samples also don’t contain PCBs.
The Southington Board of Education on Thursday night approved a motion allowing School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. to spend up to $14,000 for testing at all three elementary schools. No findings are expected, Board Chairman Brian Goralski said Thursday, but safety remains the top priority and the district doesn’t want parents worrying “what if.”
“We see this review as a responsible decision because they are the three oldest buildings,” Goralski said. “This is something we are doing with a proactive intent. It is something the public asked for and it makes sense.”
“It is an expense within our budget and does not come from the middle school project or at any added cost to the taxpayers,” he said.
Erardi said despite rumors heard from members of the public, he also wants to be clear that the decision to test is not due to any concerns that the air quality at any of the three schools is compromised. Tests and inspections are done at all schools periodically to make sure they are safe.
“There is no hidden agenda with this and we are taking action because we would like to stay in front of our three oldest buildings,” Erardi said.
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