July 18, 2008

$995,000 Sought For Sludge Cleanup At Southington Plant

By Ken Byron, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

Jul. 18--SOUTHINGTON -- Cleaning up the remnants of contaminated sludge at the town's sewage treatment plant will cost nearly $1 million, in addition to the $14.5 million the town is already spending for an expansion to the plant.

That estimate came from town staff, and the process of paying for the cleanup, which has already started, begins next week when the board of finance considers a request of $995,000 for the work. That cost estimate includes fees for hauling the sludge away and for tests, and fees that the town's environmental consultants are charging.

Town leaders say they have little choice but to do the cleanup and spend the money. But they are still unhappy at what they see as a costly debacle that could have been avoided.

"It's not rocket science to figure out that things were done that should not have been done," said council member Michael Riccio.

Council member David Zoni said the town's consultants should have tested the site more rigorously. He said tests had already found pollution in the area around the sewage plant and that the original location for the addition was rejected because of the contaminants that were discovered. Zoni said better testing might have discovered that the spot finally chosen was also polluted.

"The plant is not in a virgin field somewhere; they knew the work was going on in an area with contamination issues," Zoni said. "How could they miss this situation? They should have been looking for it in the first place."

The state is already paying part of the cost for the plant addition and town council Chairman John Barry said he thinks the state will also help pay for the cleanup, which was ordered by state and federal officials.

"This is a setback but the state recognizes that this cleanup has become part of the plant project," Barry said. "We anticipate that the state will help."

Contractors are removing the sludge because it is contaminated with PCBs, a highly toxic chemical. Workers found the sludge when they started excavating the site where the plant addition will be.

The sludge is more than 30 years old and came from the sewage plant, town officials have said. For a number of years, sludge from the plant was stored on the site until it could be taken away. That practice stopped in the 1970s, and the contaminated sludge that was dug up is the residue of the pile that once was there.

PCBs are not usually found in sewage but a number of companies illegally dumped wastewater laced with the chemical into the town's sewers and without the town's knowledge, officials have said.

Contact Ken Byron at [email protected]


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