Dec 20, 2006 Cazenovia Republican Uncategorized
Precious green belt threatened with tainted fill
By Willie Kiernan
A concerned citizen alerted the Department of Environmental Conservation of a possible spill in Cazenovia along Stone Quarry Road back in August. The DEC confirmed contamination and after questioning town highway employees, found other locations where the fill was used.
“The concentration levels are too high to be placed unrestricted in the environment, but they’re not hazardous,” said Liz Moran, Cazenovia Town Supervisor. “There’s a very low probability that this material will migrate or accumulate in fish or plants or wildlife.”
There were two major projects for the summer of 2006 for the highway department. One was the building up of Stone Quarry Road and the other was the demolition of the old town garage on Riverside Drive near the library parking lot. It was determined that asbestos was present in the roof of the old garage and a long and thorough process ensued to remove the roof materials safely. Cazenovia Highway Superintendent, Gary Stowell directed the concrete walls and flooring to be broken into manageable chunks.
“It was my professional opinion that a garage floor, after all these years, would be contaminated,” Moran said. “I told Gary he should dump it in the county landfill.”
According to town law, Stowell is an elected official and does not answer to the Town Supervisor. He chose to use the concrete chunks as fill.
Due to the rainy season, the slope on Stone Quarry Road needed to be fortified. The contaminated fill was placed along the side of the slope. Following this, a private citizen noticed petroleum in the stream along Stone Quarry Road. The DEC was notified and an investigation was opened.
According to the Town Board minutes taken at the Dec. 11 meeting, the DEC took samples and confirmed that there were hazardous materials at the Stone Quarry Road site and traced them back to the Town of Cazenovia Highway Department project. The contaminated material is laden with weathered petroleum products.
“At this point, this is a pending investigation by the DEC,” said Town Attorney John Langey. “There’s nothing more we can say.”
The matter was brought up at the Town Board meeting last Monday.
“I have decided to discuss this issue publicly. My desire is to offer clear and unbiased information. I have been fielding questions over the past few days and I want to allay any concerns before they develop,” said Moran. “There is some information on DEC web site, publicly available. Our Town Board is committed to transparency in government, even at times when it is uncomfortable. First, let me remind the community that the highway superintendent is an elected official and is not under the supervision of the town board. We control only his budget. But we are committed to working together to find the best solutions.”
Moran then went on to detail the chronology of events beginning with the Stone Quarry Road build-up. As many recall, the road was closed for several weekends including during the Madison-Bouckville Antique Show when the Art Park had their annual Ceramic and Craft Fair.
After Stone Quarry was built-up, the demolition began on the old garage. Moran stated that she directly advised Stowell to bring the material to the county landfill for disposal, based on her professional judgement and the site history. But when torrential rains washed away some of the shoulder, the material was deposited on Stone Quarry Road in an effort to stabilize the slope and halt erosion. Other material from the demolition was placed on private property at the homeowner’s request and in the yard of the new town highway facility.
Moran went on to say, “The DEC investigation confirms the presence of contaminated material at Stone Quarry Road. The DEC is issuing a notice of violation, there will be a fine, and is concerned that this could happen in Cazenovia, ‘such an environmentally conscious community.’ This is the situation as of today. We will make every effort to confirm that the environment and the public health are being protected. Based on my professional judgment I believe that the current situation poses no danger.”
At a cost of $15,000, Stearns & Wheler will provide consultation to the town related to issues surrounding the contaminated materials, including a remedial investigation for the areas of fill at Stone Quarry Road, the Beyers’ property and the new highway garage. They will also provide review of slope stabilization issues at Stone Quarry Road, another problem the DEC would like to see mitigated.
“He was probably trying to save money,” said Moran of Stowell. “Now it’s going to cost us.”
Moran said she could not guess what the fine might be but suggested that it should be less than $25,000. Stowell had no comment.