Al Tech site will be developable for commercial use

OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Department of Environmental Conservation Engineering Geologist II Maurice Moore speaks about the Lucas Avenue Superfund site at Tuesday’s Common Council workshop.

OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino Department of Environmental Conservation Engineering Geologist II Maurice Moore speaks about the Lucas Avenue Superfund site at Tuesday’s Common Council workshop.

The Lucas Avenue Superfund site will be developable for specific uses, according to a Department of Environmental Conservation representative.

At Tuesday’s Common Council workshop, council members and DEC Engineering Geologist II Maurice Moore took issue with Sunday’s article, “Undevelopable: Former steel plant more contaminated than anticipated.”

In the article Department of Public Works Director Randy Woodbury told to the DPW committee that due to higher than expected levels of contamination, the former Al Tech site would only be able to be developed on the surface for the city’s brush operations, a parking lot, etc. — nothing with a foundation.

“We removed contamination from that site and while it’s true, according to the article, that there was more contamination than initially thought, that is not unusual at all for a remediation like this,” Moore said, explaining initial soil borings do not always give the whole picture that is found once the site is dug up and confirmation samples are taken. “… (Confirmation sampling) determines if we have met our goals. At the Lucas Avenue site, we were looking at cleaning up this site to commercial reuse. So, what we did is we took anything that exceeded our Part 375 cleanup numbers and we removed those sources. … Then to make it protected for commercial reuse, we put a one-foot layer of soil over top, so there’s no incidental contact with industrial soil.”

He said the metal contaminants, such as chormium, lead and arsenic, were higher than expected, but this does not preclude it from commercial use.

“Can it be reused? Certainly,” he said. “… There was talk if this can be used for recreational activities, soccer fields, basketball courts. No, it’s cleaned up to commercial (standards). If it was cleaned up to restricted residential, then you could use it for that.”

He suggested a convenience store, fast-food restaurant or medical practice as possible suitable reuses.

“But it isn’t suitable for residential or active sports uses. You ask why didn’t we take it down to residential? When we approach these projects, we look at what is the most anticipated best end use and in this case being next to the high-speed rail, we figured this would never be reused for residential,” he said.

Third Ward Councilman Adelino Gonzalez asked if a recreation center could be developed on the site. Moore said it was possible as long as nothing was played on the ground. Alternatively, he said another one-foot layer of soil would bring the site up to residential standard, allowing for outdoor recreational use.

In addition Moore explained the Lucas Avenue site, which was a manufacturer of steel rods and wires for nearly 100 years, is different from the Love Canal site. The contamination at 100-109 Lucas Avenue is mainly from accidental spillage of liquid metals used in the pickling process, he said, meaning the contamination was not as widespread as the dump site that was Love Canal.

Woodbury explained it was not his intention to misinform the council members on this complicated project.

“I’m glad that I was wrong, so I apologize for that,” he said.

Moore explained this project is in the “end phase” with only punch list items expected to be completed in the spring. At that point a site management plan will be released that will say what can and cannot be done on the property. Furthermore, Moore explained the DEC’s environmental easement means it will continue to monitor the site for contamination risks as well as advise any future developers on how to develop the site without disturbing the remediated contaminants.

Moore added the DEC does not lease property, but the property is owned by Real Co., a single-man operation, who after the remediation will be ready to release the property. When that occurs, there is a process for the city to step in.

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