FAIRFIELD, Conn. – An unexpected amount of soil contamination has doubled the cost to Fairfield’s taxpayers for a repair project at the Public Works Garage.
Last spring the town government approved a $218,500 project to replace two motor vehicle fuel tanks at the One Rod Highway headquarters for the Fairfield Department of Public Works. While testing the soil around the old tanks last summer, crews found that some diesel fuel had leaked into the soil. The town will need to remove the contaminants before installing the new tanks under state regulations.
To pay for the extra cleanup, and to cover tank costs higher than the town’s original estimates, Fairfield will need to spend $220,000 more than expected. The town cannot cancel the project, since the current fuel tanks are more than 30 years old. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) requires underground tanks to be replaced at that age.
“We have to replace these tanks,” Michelangelo said. “They’re well beyond their statutory life. There’s considerable fines from DEEP if they are not replaced, which would exceed the cost of this.”
The state could levy fines of up to $25,000 per day on the town if the project is not finished. But Michelangelo said the DEEP knows about the problems the town is facing and is willing to wait.
Testers found contamination as far away as a 300-foot radius from the current tanks. Michelangelo added that he believes the contaminants in the soil came from a previous generation of fuel tank, and is therefore more than 30 years old.
To get rid of the fuel found in the soil, the Public Works Department will use a technique called “air sparging.” Crews will shoot high-pressure air pockets underground, which will collect the contaminants and remove them from the soil. Michelangelo expects the cleanup process to last anywhere from five to 10 years.
“It depends on how porous or compact the soil is,” Michelangelo said. “If we’re at a five-year period and our monitoring wells come back above the legal limits, and our material is clean .. we’re out of the remediation business.”
The Board of Selectmen approved the new total project cost of $438,500 at its meeting Wednesday. The Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting are scheduled to vote on issue in February.