WALLINGFORD — The audio recording of the Oct. 13, 2022 Police Station Steering Committee confirms that an architect advised the committee to make a report "disappear" because it referenced the possibility of PCBs in the building being renovated as the town's new police station.
But town officials say that phrasing doesn't mean that there are PCBs in the former 3M offices at 100 Barnes Road, the property the town purchased in July 2021 for the site of the new station.
The fact remains that there was no testing done on the building to determine if PCBs exist there, Mayor William Dickinson Jr. said Jan. 20. A report on the results of testing for lead and asbestos may reference PCBs, he said, but it contained no information regarding any levels in the building because there was no testing required or conducted there.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are carcinogenic chemical compounds that were used in industrial and consumer products before they were banned in 1978, the year the 3M building was built.
Town Councilor Craig Fishbein brought up the issue at the Jan. 10 Town Council meeting during a discussion on a proposal to form a maintenance committee that will inspect and report back on conditions at municipal meetings. Fishbein said he was "troubled" when he read the minutes of the Oct. 13 Police Station Steering Committee meeting, which reported that architect Brian Humes of Jacunski Humes Architects of Berlin said he advised the committee to make that report disappear.
The recording of the meeting confirms what Humes said — that he recommends the report disappear.
"It's something that may be present in caulking and it then may leach into masonry. It's a domino effect that you're not required to get into that level of testing," Humes is heard saying on the tape. "They did issue it with a draft on it and my recommendation to the town is to make that disappear, to make that draft report disappear and not continue any further with testing for PCBs."
In response to Fishbein's comments, Dickinson held a press conference on Jan. 13 with members of the committee, as well as Humes. Both Dickinson and Humes emphasized that there was no OSHA requirement to test the building and there was no testing conducted.
Last Friday, Dickinson said he stands by those comments. "Regardless of what is being referred to, the fact of the matter is there was no analysis, no study done regarding PCBs and it's not required," the mayor said. "OSHA is the agency that requires lead and asbestos to be tested for. We did not test for PCBs because it's not required."
There is a wide array of testing that could be done on a building such as the 3M office building, he said, but state agencies don't require them because they're not considered to be necessary.
"Lots of other tests can be done — which do you choose?" Dickinson said. "You can do testing for formaldehyde, you can do testing for radon, you can do testing for VOCs. There's a list of tests that can be done and PCBs is one of them. They're not required so no testing was done for PCBs so regardless of what the reference is, why the wording was used, it escapes me. But the point is , it's not a required test.
"The bottom line is if something that was required disappeared, then OK, but no test was even done," he said.
Humes had not denied his statements in the minutes, but told the Record-Journal in an interview he simply meant there are no requirements to test for PCBs and he does not recommend such testing.
"PCB investigations are a requirement for federally-funded and federally-supported projects. There is no federal funding which is being utilized for the renovation of the building for the Wallingford Police Department," Humes said.
But he would not say that there aren't any PCBs in the former office building, only that they are following the requirements for safety testing. "I'm not saying there is any evidence of PCBs in that building. I don't know," Humes said. "We are following all safety protocols for all hazardous materials."
The issue is taking attention away from the real issues at hand, Dickinson said, including the need to approve additional funding for the renovation project. "It's really not relevant to what is before us, which is the need for the police to have a new police station," he said.
"It's an excuse to argue about something,” Dickinson said. “If no testing was done and there's no requirement, what is the argument about?"