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.”
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.