NAUGATUCK — The question buzzes around the borough. In the streets, in the shops, wherever. The question cannot be escaped.
Some intrigued questioners ask out of curiosity, while others simply can’t ignore the large, imposing presence that sits in the middle of town.
“I get the same question every morning when I go in to get my coffee,” said Burgess Bob Neth. “What the heck’s going on at Parcel C?”
Now the question can be given an answer.
After two failed attempts to clean Parcel C, the 2.2-acre, borough-owned tract at the corner of Maple and Water Streets, long-awaited success may not be far off.
Workers are back on-site, trucks are removing soil, and all aspects of the project have restarted after several months of testing and inactivity.
Borough officials are optimistic and feel the project will be completed—this time for real.
“There are certainly questions that can be raised, and I know given the history of that parcel, a lot of people do have questions, concerns and skepticisms over it,” said Mayor Robert Mezzo. “The reality is now we have a plan. The plan meets the proposed development for that site. We are back.”
Not only is the project back on track; officials say it is still within budget.
Both Mezzo and Public Works Director Jim Stewart assured the project was within its $1.3 million budget and could be completed within the monetary boundaries set forth for the project. It was originally estimated that removing soils, which is happening now, would push the remediation job over budget. As of now, officials said, that probably won’t happen.
“It is more expensive to ship out all of the soil, but in this case we are keeping most of it on-site,” Stewart said. “Instead of having to treat it or remove it, it’s staying untreated on-site and we’re saving money on the treatment portion.”
Over the past several months, borings were collected on-site and contaminants in the soil were examined. The samples picked up traces of coal and coal ash, which must be removed from building sites under Connecticut law.
Some initially thought the coal and coal ash would respond to an oxidizing chemical agent. There were certain rounds of tests in which they did, but the oxidant failed on several occasions and it seemed to get progressively worse as testing went on.
At that point, the plan changed from trying to oxidize the chemicals to trying to encapsulate the chemicals. This process will be made easier for Manafort Brothers, the contractor working on the site’s remediation, because the vast majority of the chemical substance is concentrated in one area, where the borough could erect a parking structure.
“There’s a very strong understanding that, with the tests that have been done the past several weeks to determine the amounts of coal and coal ash in the other parts of the site, that most of the contaminants were in one location,” said Dave Prendergast, CEO of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation. “This makes it possible to seal off that site and encapsulate it from public accesses.”
According to Stewart, soil in other parts of the parcel are being removed and shipped to a landfill. Once the area is cleared, workers are going to take some of the dirt and continue treating it with the oxidant. They will be taking the rest of the soil from the front portion and putting it underneath the area where the proposed garage would be built. In this manner way, all the contaminated soil will be either encapsulated by the garage, treated with the oxidant, or shipped away.
The process has been long and exasperating to local leaders, but Mezzo offered his reassurance that the project would be completed.
“It’s been frustrating,” he said. “I remember being on the board years ago talking about it, is it clean, is it not clean? The laws are in many cases stacked against us, but I’ve been saying all along that we are going to work through things. It’s not a façade; we’re going to get it done.”
The parcel is expected to be completed by the end of the year and shovel-ready for next spring.
“I’m very optimistic this will get done on time,” Stewart said.