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John Benzinger said it could cost upward of $700,000 to dispose of the soil but negotiations are still under way.

Contaminated Soil Adds to Cost of Taconic High Site Work

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Getting rid of construction debris found in the soil at the site of the new Taconic High School will require construction managers to dip into contingency funds for the first time.
 
John Benzinger of consulting firm Skanska USA said three types of materials were found in the soil: contamination, construction debris, and unusable soils. He estimates more than a half-million dollars will be needed to dispose and replace the materials found.
 
"Someone obviously dumped some stuff they shouldn't have when they built that soccer field," Benzinger said. "This material needs to be sent to a disposal facility."
 
The contamination is asphalt-based chemicals. 
 
"It is not PCBs, it is not asbestos. It is old cold tar which has PAHes, which is contaminated material. It is not super toxic. It is not like PCBs, I want to make that clear, but it does have to be disposed of in a licensed landfill that can accept that type of material," Tom Meyers, of Skanska, said.
 
In another section of the grounds, layers of construction debris including wood, steel, and containers that were found mixed into the soil. There is also material that isn't contaminated but isn't suitable to build upon and needs to be removed.
 
The $120.8 million project included some environmental testing early in the process and some of that construction and unusable material was expected. The contract with Maxymillian Construction anticipated some of that and required the company to be responsible for the materials found up to 8 feet below the surface. But, the layers have gone deeper and require additional excavating and testing shows no indication of the contamination that will also be outside of the contract.
 
Of the three piles of material now excavated, it is estimated that it will cost some $176,000 to dispose of the contaminated soil with an additional $85,000 for Maxymillian to excavate it. However, Benzinger said the negotiations haven't even begun with Maxymillian and that the estimate did not include the materials found within the 8-foot buffer, which will be credited back. The other piles are expected to be replicated in the other two piles.
 
"Those costs have not been negotiated," he said.
 
There is also a so far unidentified material — that smells. Benzinger said soil dug up in one section has a "pungent odor" but lab testing hasn't identified why.
 
"Worst-case scenario, it would be contaminated and need to go a landfill and that is what $75,000 would be for, the worst-case scenario. Hopefully, it is clean," Benzinger said.
 
Benzinger said adding up the estimates to excavate, sift and dispose of the material is between $600,000 and $700,000 — much of which would have to be pulled from the contingency. The project has a $3.4 million contingency for just those type of circumstances. Meyers said that figure is on par with other projects in which 30 to 35 percent of contingencies are used for underground projects.
 
"It is disturbing, you never want to spend money when you do have to. In this case, we have to because of environmental laws," Meyers said.
 
Three weeks ago, Superintendent Jason McCandless told iBerkshires about the contamination and said such a finding was right in line with expectations for such a project. 
 
"We're hitting much much what they expected to hit. ... Everything we've do so far is absolutely under budget," McCandless said.
 
Benzinger said additional testing was done at the site of the current school, which will eventually be torn down, and much of the same materials were found. He expects additional costs to be incurred when that work starts.
 
Nonetheless, Benzinger said once the managers come to a resolution with the unknown material and negotiations with Maxymillian, it could be as soon as two weeks before the disposal begins. A total of three landfills are being negotiated with to accept the materials.
 
School Building Needs Commissioner Melissa Mazzeo suggested looking at having the contractor who used the material to be held responsible. Meyers said it is worth talking to an environmental attorney about it but that it may be challenging to prove which company did it.

Tags: contamination,   school project,   Taconic High,   Taconic school project,   

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