On May 19 the Connecticut-based environmental testing company, Fuss & ONeill, surprised Booth Place and Booth Court neighbors when they arrived to conduct soil testing in the back corner of Armstrong Court, which is owned by Greenwich’s Housing Authority (HATG).
The area of testing is part of the 15-acre property closest to the Town’s former dump, where, streams of water flow, and for decades an incinerator burned all manner of factory waste, chemicals, metals, pesticides. Everything including the kitchen sink.
These days, the former dump is known as the Holly Hill Resource Recovery facility and the incinerator is long gone. All that remains are memories. Or is there more?
A group of neighbors and residents, including organizers of a group called Concerned Citizens of Greenwich have been hammering away at HATG, attending their board meetings, Planning & Zoning and Board of Selectmen meetings, insisting that the former incinerator left behind contamination.
Back in December 2014, Greenwich residents and neighbors adjacent to Armstrong Court began publicly questioning HATG’s declaration that the site is “green and clean,” after being tested by Melick-Tully.
The testing was triggered by HATG’s then plan to construct a 4-story, 51-unit building for seniors in the back corner of Armstrong Court that neighbors refer to as “the hole.” A parking lot for 300 cars was planned for corner of the property closest to the former dump.
At the regular Dec. 16, 2014 Planning & Zoning meeting, several neighbors took to the mic during a public hearing portion of the meeting to voice concerns that the area might be contaminated. Testimony included that of Dawn Fortunato who evoked the memory of Josephine Evaristo and revealed that she had been diagnosed with cancer at 36, and Otto Lauersdorf, former incinerator worker who has Leukemia.
“All the drainage coming out of the incinerator used to go into that pond…Electrolux and the felt company – what they dumped down there was unbelievable. The guy used to come down from Electrolux and sit there with his cup of coffee and lawn chair and open up the 6,000 gallon tanker and let it all out,” Lauersdorf said on Dec. 16.
At the end of the Dec. 16 meeting, P&Z commission chairman, Don Heller said, “My hunch is that is that it should be double-checked. Let’s have a major review of that thing,” Mr. Heller said to P&Z director Katie DeLuca.
On March 10, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted to require HATG to re-test the back corner for contamination and use a different testing company from Melick-Tully who they have used for 30 years. The requirement was to dig two test holes in the corner of the property closest to the former incinerator and test for contamination.
On Thursday, March 19, it appeared that the Housing Authority was complying with the testing requirement when several holes were dug. Specifically, nine holes were dug, each marked by a protruding aqua pipe.
On March 26, at the Housing Authority’s monthly meeting, Housing Authority Deputy Director Terry Mardula and Executive Director Anthony Johnson took turns explaining to surprised board members that they did not plan to carry out the soil testing required by Planning & Zoning after all, and that the holes dug the previous week were, according to Mr. Johnson, “to test the structural perimeter of the fill.”
“That is not a requirement they can require us to do,” Executive Director Mr. Johnson said of the tests P&Z required. “So we are submitting the tests that we have done already. We’re not doing any additional testing.”
Deputy Director Mardula jumped in to explain further. “At a cost of $2,000 to $3,000 per hole, it doesn’t make sense. Last time around no one gave us guidance as to what the tests were for,” he said. “Without guidance as to where to test, it doesn’t make sense to just randomly test for a whole bunch of stuff. It doesn’t make sense for an expense like that.”
Fast forward to May 19 when Fuss & O’Neill arrived at the back corner of Armstrong Court and dug two soil borings and took away samples. This story will be updated when results of soil testing become available.
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