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Greenwich School Board Hears Soil Cleanup Proposals

Malcolm Beeler of AECOM, far left, addresses questions from the Board of Education on the cleanup of hazardous chemicals found in the soil at Greenwich High School. Photo Credit: Eric Gendron
Malcolm Beeler of AECOM gives a PowerPoint presentation on the soil cleanup feasibility study at Thursday's Greenwich Board of Education meeting. Photo Credit: Eric Gendron

GREENWICH, Conn. -- The price tag would be $13 million to $20 million to clean up hazardous chemicals in the ground at Greenwich High School, a representative from AECOM told the Greenwich Board of Education on Thursday after months of soil and groundwater studies.

The recommended project was one of five presented by Malcom Beeler to the school board at a work session at Cos Cob School.

Beeler went over the pros and cons of the five methods of removing the potentially hazardous chemicals before the board and an interested crowd of about 30 residents.

The projects ranged from $7 million for a two-year project to $180 million for a 12-year project with varying degrees of impact on the school grounds.

His recommended cleanup option is the best of both worlds -- it greatly lowers the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals without causing major damage to grounds or trees, Beeler said.

The chemicals pose no immediate threat and the risk of getting a disease such as cancer from exposure to the chemicals in the ground is one in 100,000, Beeler said. His recommended project would lower that risk to one in 1 million, he said.

Beeler said 1 to 3 feet of soil at various points on school grounds would need to be removed and replaced with clean soil to achieve that goal.

While the soil dangers could be largely removed, the chemicals in the brook that runs through the Greenwich High grounds would have to be monitored often.

Low levels of lead, arsenic, barium, volatile organic compounds of VOCs, polychlorinated biphenyl or PCBs and petroleum hydrocarbons were discovered in the soil underneath Greenwich High School when construction began on the Music Instructional Space and Auditorium in July 2011.

The chemicals discovered were likely part of the soil used to fill in the swampy area on Hillside Road when construction began on the current high school in the late 1960s.

The cleanup project would be implemented over two summers while school is not in session.

All documents related to the cleanup, including the full 362-page report on the environmental findings and cleanup assessment, can be found on the Greenwich Public Schools website .

The public is encouraged to submit questions and comments about the cleanup project through the Greenwich schools website until April 30.

The proposal needs to be approved by the Board of Selectmen with recommendations from Greenwich DPW and the Board of Education before it can move forward.

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