Zoning commissioners want to go by more than consultant’s nose

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Bill Heiple, senior engineer with EnSafe Inc., used this photo of 64 Cambridge Drive in his update to the Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday.

MONROE, CT — Bill Heiple, a consultant hired by the town as a third party monitor of a filling operation at 64 Cambridge Drive, uses a “sniff test” to make sure no contaminants are going into a massive hole left by an old quarry there. But the Planning and Zoning Commission prefers a more scientific method involving samples and testing.

Heiple, a professional engineer and licensed environmental professional with EnSafe, gave the commission an update at its meeting Thursday.

“What is the sniff test?” Secretary Ryan Condon asked.

“It’s me taking my hands,” Heiple said, sniffing, “and saying ‘okay, I don’t smell petroleum.’ Again, it’s a health and safety no, no. I’ve been sniffing soil for a long time.”

Though he said won’t claim to have the ability to calibrate his nose, Heiple added, “it’s not analytical data, but it’s a pretty good sniff test when you have some experience looking at this stuff.”

Heiple said Arnold Karp, managing partner of the two LLCs that own the site, which also includes 4 Independence Drive, and his crew successfully raised the site’s elevation to 411 feet.

Now they are processing fill material from a pile of construction debris from Stratford High School, before bulldozers push the fill around the industrial site and compact it.

Though soil testing had been done in the past and found no contaminants, commissioners want some test samples to be taken as workers dig into the Stratford pile.

“When I walked down there I said, ‘oh it smells like crushed concrete,'” Heiple said. “I’ve been on enough demolition sites and construction sites.”

Heiple said he has also taken dozens of photos and goes by observations, as well as using his sense of smell.

Robert Westlund, a commissioner, said he thought the consultant was going to test material in the Stratford pile as it is used.

“I think we need to take some samples to make sure what they’re laying back in the ground has no contaminants in it,” said Leon Ambrosey, a commissioner.

“We’re happy to do that for you,” Heiple said.

“That was never brought to your attention?” asked Vice Chairman Bruno Maini, who chaired Thursday’s meeting.

“It was never part of the scope of our work,” Heiple said. “Perhaps at one point it was discussed.”

Town Planner Rick Schultz said the intent was always there.

“Obviously, you’re not gonna test every last bit of dirt in the Stratford pile. We know that’s not possible,” Condon said. “But at the same time, we have to sit here and represent the town. We need to be able to tell the residents, ‘yeah it’s been tested,’ and we can’t tell them it was sniff tested. Even if it’s just a handful of times.”

Ambrosey said he figured periodic testing of samples from the pile would be done.

Domenic Paniccia, a commission alternate, said there are three contaminants that cannot be picked up by “sniff testing,” mercury, lead and asbestos, which require a gathering of samples, marking where the samples came from and submitting it to a lab for analyzing — with new samples tested as fill is removed.

Heiple said he thought the issue of whether contaminants are on the property was largely resolved via all the technical data compiled by licensed professionals, whose findings he takes seriously.

“I’m looking at our contract now and it doesn’t say to collect samples,” Heiple said. “We’re very happy to do that. We’ll review the data, then work with Rick on some sampling protocol.”

Other observations

During his presentation Thursday, Heiple said there has been “pretty rigorous oversight” of the property. Photos he took at every visit showed changes over time.

Heiple, who recently met with Karp, said it is his understanding they intend to process and use all of the existing fill material on the site, before trucking any new fill onto the site.

He said there is around 100,000 cubic yards of material on the site.

When new material is brought onto the site, Heiple said he expects them to continue to follow their own strict protocols for ensuring it is clean fill, adding he will conduct rigorous inspections.

“I do believe the owner and his crew are diligent in the material they use and plan to use,” Heiple said. “He’s trying to be very efficient on how they manage the site.”

A crushing operation is currently underway, breaking up big pieces of concrete and loading it into a hopper, which crushes some material and separates steel and larger pieces from the fill, before it goes up the conveyer and into piles, where bulldozers spread it.

Heiple said the timer of the water irrigation system to rehydrate wetlands seems to be effective in moving water around, adding there was help from the recent rainfall.

16 thoughts on “Zoning commissioners want to go by more than consultant’s nose

  1. If fill was obtained from Stratford, you should assume it contains asbestos. Raybestos Corp (the nation’s largest Superfund site) regularly dumped asbestos laden product all over Stratford – in particular- school athletic fields. The Stratford High project involved building on their field and relocating athletic activities to a town park.

    • In a presentation from Ensafe at tonight’s IWC meeting, it was explained that since federal and/or state funds were used in the removal of Stratford high school, the highest levels of environmental scrutiny were used in the export management on site, making it virtually impossible for Stratford high school contaminants to have been imported to Cambridge drive in Monroe

      • Keith,
        The reason that there is State investigation going on, is that the Stratford High School Demolition Contractor, American Environmental, Inc. has denied ever transporting a single truck load of material to 64 Cambridge Drive.

        The problem is that over a 100k+ cubic yards of demolition material imported to 64 Cambridge. And it was not just from the Stratford High School demo project.
        Much of the contaminated Contruction Debris imported was from MANY different demolition sites from Boston to New York City. All of which was “supposed” to be dumped out of state. Why did it end up buried in the quarry?

        Your personal reluctance to enforce town codes along with your obvious ignorance of the facts presented doesn’t pass the “sniff” test. In my opinion, you are either an agent for Karp or you are just incompetent.

        You should resign as Monroe could do better.

        • You just contradicted yourself. You should go back and reread what you said. Apparently you are unaware of the roles of town volunteers. We don’t enforce codes. That is town staff’s job. Hurling insults from the west coast is not going to do you any justice over here.

  2. Wow!!! But it’s not like I didn’t say that this would happen.

    In April 2019, I provided Ken Kellogg, Bill Porter and Rick Schultz with proof that contaminated fill was being imported to the Quarry for $$$$.

    They allowed this illegal activity to go on for years and turned the site into the mess it is today.

    Makes me wonder who Arnold Karp’s real biz partners are?

    • Peter— there is nothing to find except clean fill. You continue to say derogatory untrue statements is that because you missed out buying it. We run a clean operation with standards and protocols higher than any other site in Monroe

  3. OMG. We need a list of which contaminants are sniff-detectable and which are not. And wasn’t that irrigation broken this summer too? Finally, the excavation photo indicates that the original assault on the land and water is now getting worse. This is remediation? Mother Nature should be commissioned to manage this mess.

  4. The LEP should be fired for incompetence.

    What will be what the P&Z, IWC and First Selectman actually do to correct this mess? Or will they ignore the site for another 15 years??

    • We are not sure that the accurate story has been presented. This site and this “pile” has been and continues to be the most tested in Monroe. We have an independent LEP that we pay to continue to monitor this site. We are and continue to go above and beyond to make sure the property we own is clean, tested and valuable.

  5. We use trained dogs to sniff out bombs, drugs, missing people, dead people. Why can’t a human scientist use their trained nose? It’s not crazy at all and contrary to some of the comments on here, Monroe should be revered for how we have handled this remediation.

  6. Instead of a wine tasting party, let’s have a sniff smelling party. Make up sets of fill with various contaminants and have the sniff tester identify each contaminant. Also testing and dumping should be halted when the sniffer has a cold. flu, or Covid which affects the sense of smell.

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