Grant will fund GDC contamination study

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NAUGATUCK — The borough will use grant money to search for underground contaminants on one of the sites pegged for development in the planned downtown revitalization project, Renaissance Place.

The borough will use a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to search for chemicals and other contamination at the General DataComm property at 6 Rubber Avenue. The site is ground zero for Phase One of the four-phase, $710 million public and private development.

The money will serve two purposes, Mayor Bob Mezzo said. First, it is necessary to have contaminated properties known as brownfields cleaned up before any development can begin on the land. And it allows Renaissance Place’s private developer, the Fairfield-based Conroy Development Co., to begin discussions again about purchasing the property.

Conroy must purchase the GDC building and property, which is appraised at about $9.1 million, before it can begin development on the site. Discussions had been stalled since the fall, when Alexius Conroy said he made offers to buy the building and property, and GDC denied that he had made any legitimate offers.

Many in Naugatuck have expressed serious doubts over whether Renaissance Place will ever be built. But Mezzo believes the continued studies—other contamination studies have been conducted and are ongoing—and discussions about the plan are proof that Naugatuck and Conroy have every intention of moving forward with Renaissance Place.

Mezzo said many believe the GDC property, which once housed buildings for the Uniroyal Chemical Co., has numerous contaminants. The study, known officially as a Phase One environmental study, will determine whether they are correct.

Phase One consists of mostly searching historical documents to determine what chemicals were used on the land, while Phase Two is a more in-depth physical study and Phase Three is a remedial action plan.

“We are starting to believe that we may find the level of contamination isn’t as bad as everyone thought it was,” Mezzo said. “We hope that’s the case. This is why we do the study.”

The borough is also conducting a study of underground contaminants at another site proposed for development under Renaissance Place: the vacant parcel on the corner of Maple and Water streets known as Parcel C. That study is expected to be done before the end of the summer.

The study of the GDC site, which Mezzo believes will likely begin within the next month, will include three community meetings to discuss the methodology and progress of the study. The firm conducting the study will also hold a question and answer session with residents.

Michael O’Connor, vice president of Conroy Development Co., said he’s pleased by the choice of consultant, AKRF Inc. of New York City.

“The study is important because this assures we can move forward with the project,” O’Connor said. “We need to know what the issues are so we can move forward with them.”