Almost 10 years ago, Fairfield hired Julian Enterprises to run its fill pile. Three years later, contamination was found at the site, along with other violations, forcing the site to be shut down.
The fill pile was supposed to gather materials generated from road construction and other public works maintenance projects, such as asphalt, concrete, rock, and soil and then mix them with clean soils to use as a fill, such as for under roads and parking lots.
The contamination and other decisions made by town officials, such as construction done on the site without proper permits, have left Fairfield to deal with millions in remediation efforts, as well as an investigation into multiple former town employees.
“I know this whole entire situation is frustrating to you and to our whole community and to me,” First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said at an information session held on August 31, with members of the Board of Selectmen, Representative Town Meeting, and Board of Finance.
In 2019, Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection issued notices of violation to the town related to environmental concerns at the site, including for the PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which are industrial products or chemicals. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “PCB chemicals were banned in the U.S. in 1979 because these chemicals harm human and environmental health.”
The town has been working with both DEEP and the EPA to come up with a remediation plan for the site itself, but Michael Miller, an environmental attorney hired by the town to deal with this issue, said that they have not yet agreed on a plan.
However, the town has made progress in cleaning up the sites that the “fill” from the fill pile was used at, Kupchick reported. Approximately two-thirds of the sites have been cleaned up, at a cost of about $3 million, she said.
The remaining one-third of the sites are also projected to cost about $3 million to address, Kupchick said.
“The remaining sites are more complicated than the sites we have already completed,” she said.
The fill was also used at one more site in town—Penfield Pavilion, which also is in violation of FEMA standards, Kupchick said.
“Penfield Pavilion has been built twice,” said Kupchick, noting that it was “stunning” that they were back discussing this structure after more than $12 million has already been spent on it.
The town initially spent $5 million to construct the pavilion, which opened in the summer of 2011. It was just about a year old when it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. In 2016, the town became eligible for reimbursement for the project from FEMA, but the organization asked that construction be halted because of issues with non-compliance. Construction continued and in 2018, the project was ruled ineligible for reimbursement because its foundation did not comply with regulations.
Kupchick presented two main options for Penfield—knocking the whole structure down and rebuilding it, or keeping the structure intact and addressing issues to the foundation, while at the same time remediating the fill used under it.
She said that she believed doing the remediation at the same time as addressing the foundation’s structural issues was the best option because it would be the most efficient and “least disruptive.”
“The amount of money I know feels difficult to spend,” she said.
However, with this option, if the town is able to start the process of requesting proposals to handle the foundation work out in November, Kupchick said the goal would be to only lose one summer season at the pavilion.
Kupchick also said that the goal of the informational meeting was to give all the elected officials a chance to review the information and the background before she and other administration officials began coming before the boards to present the options of remediation and repair in the next few weeks.