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Dave Zajac Record-Journal
The operator of an excavator loads up a dump truck while working on the Hub site in downtown Meriden, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Contaminated soil from the Hub was trucked into Canada because it could not be accepted at the Tire Pond in North Haven. | Dave Zajac / Record-Journal

Worst of contaminated Meriden Hub soil sent to Canada

MERIDEN — More than 800 tons of highly contaminated soil excavated during the Hub redevelopment project has been shipped to Canada.

Project planners had hoped to dispose of most of the contaminated fill at the infamous “tire pond” site on the Hamden-North Haven line, but much of the material was deemed hazardous and unsuitable for disposal there.

A facility in Canada has received about 840 tons of the hazardous soil removed from the 14.4-acre Hub site, Director of Public Works Robert Bass estimated. It is estimated in total that 100,000 tons of soil will be removed over the next 18 months.

“All of what is classified as hazardous was delivered to Canada,” Bass said, unsure of the name of the facility. “We had expected and had a base bid that we would haul off 150 tons ... As we continued to dig, the soils kept coming back really bad.”

Officials had initially planned to haul the hazardous soil to a location in the Midwest, but the contractor, LaRosa Construction, preferred the Canadian site and said it was a simpler alternative, according to Bass.

City officials and environmental testers expected to find hazardous materials in the soil. The site was once home to the International Silver Co. and the Meriden Britannia Co., as well as auto repair shops and gas stations, among numerous other businesses through the years. Although five “hot spots” were identified for hazardous materials, Bass said it was difficult to tell exactly how far the contamination had spread in some cases.

“We had a hole that was 10 by 10 by 15 feet,” Bass said, standing just east of the center of the site. “Then we had to expand it by 10 feet on each side. Then we could determine one side was clean, but then had to expand the other side because we kept finding the material. So that kept growing until it was determined the hazardous product was no longer there ... When you deal with a site like this, it’s hard to know how far it stretches unless you test every foot. Sometimes the stuff just travels.”

Environmental testers continued to find a product known as PMC-3 (precious metal clay). PMC-3 is commonly used to make sterling silver jewelry and other silver products.

Officials say they don’t expect to find any more significant hazards at the five hot spots that were excavated. But they’re waiting for test results on two other locations. Old oil tanks were found — one in each corner of the south side of the Hub — and the tanks showed signs of leaking. Soil from those areas was placed in 11 large metal containers on the north side of the Hub and Bass said their fate will be determined soon.

“We are still waiting for the final test results and then we will see where we can dispose of that product, either at the tire pond or somewhere else,” he said.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has been sending millions of tons of soil and sedimentation to the tire pond since 2002. The pond was illegally filled with an estimated 20 million tires over the years and DEEP officials agreed the best solution was to cover the site.

“With projects like the Hub and overall brownfields redevelopment projects, you will have a variety of materials,” Robert Isner, director of waste, engineering and enforcement at DEEP, said earlier this year. “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.”

The Hub project is estimated to cost $13 million and includes uncovering Harbor Brook, installing multiple pedestrian bridges and an amphitheater and remediating the soil. The park will double as a retention area for flood waters in the event of a significant rain storm. It is expected to be completed in the summer of 2015. (203) 317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

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