Taxpayers get break on cleanup costs

It appears cost of the cleanup at the contaminated manufactured gas plant in Albany isn’t going to reach the worst-case scenario.

That was good news.

When it was discovered that the city was going to be responsible for the cleanup at the plant where oil and coal were used to generate energy for the Water, Gas & Light Commission, the price tag was expected to be as much as $9 million.

But the first phase of the project has indicated that the cost will be in the $4 million-$5 million range, according to Keith Goodin, assistant general manager for operations for the city-owned utility.

So far, tests have shown no contamination outside the area where most of the byproduct from the energy creation was located.

Better news, of course, would be that there was no contamination at all, but looking at trimming at least $4 million from original cost estimates is certainly an improvement.

“I’m pleased with what we found,” Goodin told WG&L commissioners last week. “I don’t believe we have much more of the byproduct to remove. I believe we now know where it is located and where it stops.”

Goodin, understandably, told commissioners he didn’t want to “get ahead” of himself and promise that the project will end up at around half the original estimate, but he said he was optimistic.

One unfortunate aspect of the operation is that it appears our climate will delay its completion. Goodin said that the state Environmental Protection Division has to review recently collected samples before the second phase — digging — can begin. He said he doesn’t think local officials will get a green light from EPD, which ordered the cleanup, before temperatures begin climbing next year.

Because the digging has to be done during cooler weather, the second phase likely won’t start until fall of 2014, he suggested.

While we would all like to see the project move forward more quickly than that, at least it looks like the operation is moving forward and the cost to taxpayers won’t be as severe as it could have been. We can at least be thankful for that.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board