Fairfield Fill Pile price tag: $19 million to $31 million

FAIRFIELD, CT — The cost of cleaning up contamination and other issues related to the mismanagement of Fairfield’s fill pile is expected to range from $19 million to $31 million, city officials said Tuesday.

“These numbers are fluid,” first coach Brenda Kupchick said at a joint meeting of the selectors’ council, finance council and city representatives meeting held on Webex. “Believe me, I pray it gets lower.”

The heap is at the center of a contamination crisis that began in 2013, when Fairfield hired Julian Development to operate the site and reduce its footprint. Instead, the pile tripled in size in three years, and days before the deal with Julian ended, contaminants were discovered, leading to a police investigation and charges against seven people, most of whom are former city employees.

Pile backfill, which in some cases contained asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls, was suspected or confirmed at 39 sites across Fairfield, including schools and parks. Site cleanup is managed under a negotiated consent order and must be certified and filed with state environmental officials. Twenty-seven sites have already been processed.

Remediating the pile itself is expected to cost between $4 million and $8 million, depending on the city, and will be subject to state and federal environmental regulations.

“The (Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) estimates could be as high as $100 million,” according to a note on the pile included in Tuesday’s presentation. “Negotiations are ongoing – all estimates are subject to approval by regulatory agencies (DEEP, EPA, FEMA).”

The pile closure and cleanup will likely include excavation, capping and ongoing groundwater monitoring, and a town hall-style meeting will be held to discuss plans for the property when they are more fully developed, according to Mike Miller. , a lawyer representing the city. .

The most expensive item included in Fairfield’s projected pile costs is the cleanup and rebuilding of the ill-fated Penfield Pavilion, which could total $18 million combined. Destroyed by Hurricane Sandy a year after its completion in 2011, the facility was rebuilt in 2017, but did not meet Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations and had misplaced horizontal beams. The city was denied a $4.3 million reimbursement by FEMA in 2018 and must now correct the violation. Both the pavilion and its parking lot received backfill from the contaminated pile.

Construction of the facility is estimated at $7-10 million, and remediation of its parking lot and main site is expected to be between $5-8 million. Plans for the building could include demolition, relocation or repair, according to Kupchick, who noted that the air and sand around the pavilion have been tested and are safe.

Finance Council member Kevin Starke asked Tuesday if the city was “just leaning in and taking this” from FEMA.

“We don’t get anything back from them,” he said. “We are going to spend money renovating a building for the third time for no good reason.”

Kupchick had earlier said that if the facility is not made FEMA compliant, Fairfield homeowners could face the risk of having their FEMA flood insurance revoked.

“I don’t really like that language being used at a town meeting,” Kupchick told Starke. “We are, as an administration, in discussions with FEMA, and when we have information from them, we will then develop options that comply with the law.”

In total, Fairfield has earmarked $11.7 million so far for its citywide contamination issues, the majority of which comes from surplus transfers. It also spent $4.4 million, mostly on environmental investigations, remedial action and legal fees.

“I want our residents to know that we’re working on cleaning this up,” Kupchick said. “Unfortunately, we’re going to be doing this for quite a while.”

Richard L. Militello