January 28, 2014 12:12PM
By Dan Brechlin
MERIDEN — Big changes at the downtown Hub site will mean large amounts of soil hauled out of the city.
Close to 100,000 tons of soil will be removed from the Hub over the next 18 months as part of a redevelopment project. For years, officials have been planning to create flood storage by unearthing Harbor Brook and turning the parcel into a park.
To create the flood storage space, machinery will excavate the soil, much of which is contaminated from past industrial uses. The material will be hauled down Interstate 91 to the infamous “tire pond” on the Hamden-North Haven town line.
“They say timing is everything and timing was perfect for us,” said Public Works Director Robert Bass.
Since 2002, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has been sending millions of tons of soil and sedimentation to the tire pond as the state tries to cover what has been described as the country’s largest tire dump.
The pond was illegally filled with an estimated 20 million tires over the years as a private disposal site.
The state eventually shut the business down, but was left with an environmental hazard.
Rather than trying to remove the tires, DEEP opted to fill the site for eventual stabilization and possible reuse. A clay pit, the site was 120 to 140 feet deep over more than 20 acres, said Robert Isner, director for the waste, engineering and enforcement division at DEEP.
“The tire pond is very unique,” explained Isner. “It was the largest tire disposal facility of its kind not just in Connecticut, but anywhere in the U.S. There were a lot of unique challenges and risk of health to the public.”
Twelve years later, DEEP is nearing the end of the project by closing the site with soil and sedimentation. For the next year, or so, a large amount of dirt needed will be coming from the Hub project. The Meriden site has a history of silver and glass production and has been home to laundry cleaning services, gas stations and automotive shops, and other businesses that released contaminants into the ground.
Extensive environmental testing has been done at the Hub with less contamination being discovered than many had predicted. For those considering using the tire pond, DEEP has outlined on a website what is acceptable and what is not. Soil, sediment, rock, concrete, and brick are all acceptable at the tire pond even if they contain such contaminants as polycholorinated biphenyls (PCBs). There are restrictions, however, on the concentration of contaminants, though Meriden will meet many of the guidelines with the Hub project.
“With projects like the Hub and overall brownfields redevelopment projects, you will have a variety of materials,” Isner said. “Some will have higher levels of contamination than others. In Meriden, not all of the materials will be accepted by the tire pond, but the cleaner material, like any construction fill, can be used there.”
Items not allowed at the tire pond include asphalt, construction and demolition waste, concrete or brick with visible paints, stains, caulks, or adhesives, in addition to concrete with rebar protruding at a specific length. There is currently a pile sitting in the center of the Hub site containing much of the asphalt that was removed, in addition to soil. Bass said the pile will not be shipped to the tire pond, but he is pleased that keeping close contact with DEEP allowed the city to find an acceptable site for soil disposal.
“DEEP kept us in tune with the closure with the tire pond site and let us know when they were ready to accept more material, which we happened to have.”
The city negotiated a price of $12 per ton for disposal of materials at the tire pond.
According to bidding documents, about 150 tons of the material at the site is considered hazardous waste and will be disposed of separately at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-permitted hazardous waste disposal facility. Some of the soil at the site will be reused at the Hub to shape the future park’s topography.
LaRosa Construction, the general contractor, has cleared the Hub site, but has yet to begin excavation. Bass said it will begin in the next few weeks. LaRosa has so far brought down trees, torn up asphalt and curbing and prepared the site for the $13 million project.
“Once the first shovel hits the ground, you’re going to start see a lot happening,” Bass said.