Atlanta-based AMEC Environmental and Infrastructure contract workers stand idle by a heavy-equipment vehicle at the manufactured gas plant cleanup site on Front Street Wednesday.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Heavy rains that inundated the area over the past several days have pushed the initial phase of an environmental hazardous waste cleanup forward a week, but city Water, Gas & Light officials say the project is still ahead of an Environmental Protection Division-mandated deadline to get started.
WG&L Assistant General Manager for Operations Keith Goodin said Wednesday morning the exploratory phase of the project, which was to have started Monday, is still 3 1/2 weeks ahead of EPD's mandated March start date.
"The digging must take place when the average temperature over a 24-hour period is at 71 degrees or below," Goodin said. "If the temperature is higher, the (hazardous) material becomes more volatile and might become wind-blown.
"We have a window that should allow us to complete the digging without any major concerns. We want the public to know that we're concerned about any potential environmental dangers, and we're prepared to beat the warm weather by a month or more."
Officials with the Atlanta-based division of AMEC Environmental and Infrastructure, one of the world's top environmental and engineering consulting firms with offices in 40 countries, started moving equipment onto the 900 Front St. site on Monday. Site Manager Russ Fraze said he expects the project to take around eight weeks.
"We'll concentrate our digging primarily at the location of the two former tank holders (at which coal was super-heated by oil and turned into a gas used to create energy) and gather samples that will be sent to our Atlanta lab for testing," Fraze said. "We'll probably have as many as seven or eight people working over the course of the project."
WG&L Deputy Director of Engineering Lee Daniel, who was at the site Wednesday, said AMEC will haul the excavated dirt to the Dougherty County Landfill, a process that is expected to cost WG&L around $500,000. As much as a third of the cost will be covered by insurance; the rest will be funded by WG&L.
Goodin said contaminated dirt at the site will be mixed with non-contaminated dirt or lime before being taken to the Dougherty landfill.
"You might say the (contaminated dirt) will be diluted until it's at an acceptable level before being taken to our landfill," he said. "We'll make sure the toxicity levels are at a level where they won't have an impact."
Goodin said landfill costs for the project are expected to come in at around $100,000, engineering and contract costs should run around $290,000, and testing costs will come in at around $110,000. Officials have projected that the entire cleanup will carry a price tag of between $5 million and $9 million.
The plant, which was built in 1912 and used until it was decommissioned in 1948, is one of about 2,000 such plants across the country that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has cited as potentially hazardous and ordered cleaned up.