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Green Concerns Raised Over Holly Hill Revamp

GREENWICH, Conn. – The town needs to conduct further soil and water tests before approving renovations to the garbage transfer and single-stream recycling facilities at Holly Hill, Greenwich environmentalists say.

Jack Stoecker, coordinator for the Byram Water Coalition, said the town needed to “avoid another Greenwich High School disaster," referring to the contaminated soil found in parking lots and fields on school grounds over the summer during a renovation project there.

As part of the transfer station renovations, an onsite detention pond within Tom’s Brook would be dredged. Stoecker, a Greenwich resident, and others say the pond is contaminated.

“Pollutants in that pond are a concern. But what’s more of a concern is the pollutants that are no longer there and have shown up on our beaches,” Stoecker told the Board of Selectmen, which was presented with the plan Thursday. “I think part of the problem is it is so unbelievably big and comprehensive that we can’t see all the ramifications.”

The Department of Public Works is requesting funds for the first three phases of a six-phase project for the 2012-13 fiscal year. “In doing this we’re trying to make it as efficient as possible,” said Jim Michel, a town engineer. “With the recent single-stream process, we can kind of shrink down the space. … We don’t need a separate bin for cardboard, aluminum and so forth; we co-mingle all that, so it can be condensed.”

In the first phase, two truck scales are added and a new trailer for highway employees will replace the trailer currently used by transfer station employees. The second phase would include a water quality basin, sewer improvements, landscape improvements at the adjacent baseball field, roadway expansion and reduction of grass island. The third phase would construct a temporary drop-off area as well as commercial and residential drop-off areas.

Phases four to six include constructing a transfer station office building, dredging Tom’s Brook detention basin and building a highway.

The project would be phased, Michel added. Most projects can be implemented independent of one another, depending on when the town can pay for each. He estimated the entire project would cost $10 million to $12 million.

Michael Finkbeiner, senior environmental analyst for the Byram River Park System, said the project should not go forward until public hearings are held. He said in a letter to the selectmen three soil samples at the onsite detention pond found that metal and pesticide contaminants exceeded regulatory amounts. The town plans to dredge 1,560 square yards of material from excess sedimentation.

However, according to a Nov. 2 memo from senior project manager Cynthia Baumann to Public Works Commissioner Amy Siebert, soil tests on Oct. 6 refuted Finkbeiner’s claim. “The sediment within the detention basis is nonhazardous.”

Finkbeiner said they were “three superficial tests of pond siltation previously dredged and re-silted in, not deep borings into the older fill.” Historical mapping shows that the dump's recycling drop-off facility is on top of an embankment of 23 feet of fly ash, he said, which is the residue from burning coal to generate electric power.

Patti Sechi, director of the Armstrong Court Community Garden, said the town often overlooks the residents of the housing complex. “Their safety is something that’s important to me. … So I just ask that anything that’s done, we very carefully look at how even the construction might affect the garden down below,” she said. The garden grows organic food on 15,000 square feet of garden plots downstream from Holly Hill.

First Selectman Peter Tesei said the board would vote on whether to grant municipal improvement status to the project Dec. 1. Site renovations have been in the budget as part of the town’s Master Plan for several years. “It’s going to be a long road knowing how long the review process takes,” said Tesei. “But we’re beginning it and that’s the positive aspect of it – we’re starting a discussion. We’re not just letting the status quo exist.”

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