Posted Feb 8, 2018 at 7:29 PM
Eversource plans to begin a $5 million environmental cleanup next week at its former service-center site on MacArthur Drive, adjacent to the former NStar power plant.
The property is widely considered one of the most valuable redevelopment opportunities on the New Bedford waterfront.
“This is exciting news,” said Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council. “It’s an important first step.”
The soil contains coal tar from the historical production of manufactured gas, before natural gas was widely used. When gas is produced from coal and oil, viscous coal tar is left behind.
Although it was used for roofing and other purposes, coal tar was also released into the ground at the Eversource site, said James Ash, senior vice president at GEI Consultants, the environmental contractor for the cleanup.
The work will involve excavating about 18,000 square feet of the parking lot and mixing cement-based grout into the soil. When it hardens, the resulting solid will not leach contaminants into the water or air, according to James Adamik, an Eversource hydrogeologist.
“Nothing leaves it,” he said.
By Thursday, workers had already delivered two excavators, a grout silo, hoses for pumping the grout, and other supplies to the site. Excavation will take place next to MacArthur Drive, in the southerly of two parking lots that are south of the Fairfield Inn.
First, workers will remove the pavement and four to five feet of soil. That soil is relatively clean and does not need treating, Adamik said. Then, they will pump grout into the hole and mix it with the remaining soil, going down 15 to 17 feet or until they hit bedrock.
The hardened mixture will be covered with about three feet of soil from the original upper layer, enough to bring the land up to level.
Ash, of GEI, said the rest of the removed soil will go to a landfill.
GEI is monitoring air quality on the site in real time. Non-toxic foam will be pumped onto the ground to control odors.
The work is expected to take about three months.
The cleanup should cost about $5 million, funded by Eversource and recovered through gas rates, according to company representatives.
Eversource does not own the power plant. Sprague Energy bought a portion of the property containing the plant and adjacent oil tanks in 2005 as a bulk petroleum terminal. Together, the two parcels are often called the NStar site, for Eversource’s previous name.
Eversource owns 18 acres there, and Sprague owns 11. Eversource relocated its employees to the New Bedford Business Park late last summer.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said in 2016 that the northern portion of the site should align with development in the downtown area and the southern portion should remain industrial. He was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.
Santos, of the Economic Development Council, said two large waterfront parcels — Revere Copper and Eversource/Sprague — were “sort of chained down” by casino proposals for a decade.
Asked what might work well on the site, he said the northern part of the site, near the Fairfield Inn, could be used for expanded hotel and convention space, and the rest could be used for offshore wind, fish offloading or as a shipyard. Shipyard jobs pay well, he said.
The city has been engaged in a waterfront planning process for several years.
Original story here.