PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The contaminated material found at Taconic High School is mostly cleaned up, according to Superintendent Jason McCandless.
McCandless told the School Committee on Wednesday that about 80 percent of the material pulled from the site of the new school has been trucked off to a landfill in Syracuse, N.Y. During site work, three types of soil that could not be reused or contaminated was discovered.
"The removal of those piles began on Aug. 10 and as of today, 80 percent done," McCandless said.
The soils are categorized in three types: unsuitable, construction debris, and contaminated. It cost a total of $700,000 of unexpected costs to remove those soils from the location of the new high school.
"This is a contingency line that is really specifically for these kinds of things," McCandless said.
The unsuitable soil found was organic material commonly found near wetlands and which cannot support buildings and had to be removed. Construction material was found In the westernmost side of the property, where a former soccer field was once.
The construction material, according to McCandless, must have been used to raise the elevation of the ground when the fields were built in the 1960s. The material found contained wood, concrete, rebar, and "identifiable chunks" of other common construction pieces. That soil needed to be screened to pull the construction material out and reuse the fill.
The final type of material was that contaminated by coal tar pitch, mostly used in roofing material.
"This is not hazardous waste. This is not hazardous material. It is contaminated, however," McCandless said.
McCandless emphasized that the material wasn't PCBs or similar pollutants. But it still needed to be trucked to a landfill that accepts contaminated soils.
Polychlorinated biphenyls are a toxic material used by the former General Electric in the manufacturing of capacitors. The pollutant has been found in a number of areas of the city, including the Housatonic River.
"There has been at no point, any indication, in spite of a good number of resources going into testing, there has been no hazardous material," McCandless said.
Mayor Linda Tyer echoed that sentiment.
"In our meetings with professional construction managers it was clear that what you say is not PCBs," Tyer said. "I know there is a lot of anxiety in our community, and rightly so, about PCBs but this is not what this is."
There were three or four piles of the material collected and piled on site. McCandless said the $700,000 being pulled from the $3.48 million in one of the construction contingencies was for overtime to extract the material, pile it, screen it, and ship the contaminants out as well as performing a number of tests.
Further testing is being done on the side of the current high school so that administrators and the construction managers know what they are in for when the demolition of the former school and the rebuilding of playing fields is being done there.
Last week, McCandless said the digging required for the site was completed.
"We don't anticipate further issues on this part of the project," he said.
The extra funds for the contamination is not reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. But, such finds are anticipated somewhat and that is why there are contingencies built into the budget. The final price of the the $120.8 million cannot change per a contract with the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
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