The old Water, Gas & Light Commission power plant on Front Street in Albany is undergoing cleanup for contamination. Officials think the project may come in on the lower of the $4 million to $9 million estimated cost. (April 20, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- Water, Gas & Light officials are encouraged by preliminary results from Phase I of an Environmental Protection Division-ordered cleanup of a former manufactured gas plant in the city.
WG&L Assistant General Manager for Operations Keith Goodin said he expects good news when the utility and EPD get a report from the 900 Front St. cleanup site. Work on Phase I of the cleanup, which involved exploratory digging at the location of two large holding tanks on the 4-acre site, was completed recently by Atlanta-based AMEC Environmental and Infrastructure.
"I'm optimistic that this whole project will come in at the lower end of cost estimates," Goodin said. "AMEC hasn't billed us for all the work yet, but their costs are around $300,000. With all the planning, engineering, soil testing and a completed report, I think Phase I costs will come in at around $550,000 to $600,000. That's well below the $750,000 we projected.
"It's obviously too soon to tell about the overall project, but I'm encouraged by results of Phase I and think we may get this done at a cost of around $4 million, or even less if things go extremely well. We really won't know, though, until we get that (Phase 1) report."
Original cost estimates for the project, which focuses on a manufactured gas plant that operated from 1912 to 1948 and converted coal and super-heated oil into energy, ranged from $4 million to $9 million. The energy-producing process created a byproduct that the EPD says presents an environmental hazard.
Albany City Manager James Taylor, who also currently serves as WG&L's interim general manager, said Wednesday he was pleased with the initial phase of the cleanup.
"We won't know everything until we get a completed report, but it looks like the contamination is not nearly as bad as it could have been," Taylor said. "There is contamination, and I guess the ideal report would have been that there is none. But we're cautiously optimistic that things are not as bad as we were fearing."
Goodin said he expects a report on Phase I of the cleanup to be ready by no later than August. Further digging at the site could not commence until average daily temperatures reached 72 degrees or lower.
"I don't see us doing any more digging at the site until October at the earliest," Goodin said.
Excavation at the site of the two large storage tanks on the property went so well, Goodin said, AMEC personnel mixed only $1,000 worth of a lime/ash product into soil that was used to backfill the large holes that resulted from the exploratory digging. The company had expected to use as much as $10,000 worth of the product.
"We're hoping we can be through with 95 percent of this process in the next two or three years," Goodin said of the cleanup. "There has been one of these plants in Georgia where the EPD has said, 'We're through with you; we don't need to hear from you again' after the initial cleanup process was finished.
"It's just as likely this could be with us forever. We may have to test soil and wells in the area every five years or so for the foreseeable future. But I'm optimistic we're going to have good results from what we're doing."
Taylor, meanwhile, who was representing WG&L at a Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia meeting Wednesday, said the utility's board would put together a plan on which it will base the hiring of a new general manager at its retreat May 17-18.
"We have two position description proposals, one from Marietta and one put together here, and we'll take a look at both of them at our retreat," Taylor said. "Once we come up with a plan on how we're going to advertise the position, we'll begin the search for a new general manager."