Contaminated soils delay Harbor Walk bidding process

Bids expected to go out in early December
By Ben Holbrook | Nov 13, 2012

Belfast — The unexpected discovery of contaminated soils on city-owned property near the former Belfast Boatyard has delayed progress on the Harbor Walk project as officials seek to resolve the issue.

City Planner Wayne Marshall explained to councilors at their Wednesday, Nov. 7, meeting the discovery of the contaminated soils was made during the sale of the Belfast Boatyard property to Front Street Shipyard. At the time, an independent contractor was hired to conduct an environmental audit on the property, and due to an error as to the location of the boatyard property line, the auditors tested a small section of the abutting property owned by the city.

Marshall said the tests came back with slightly elevated levels of contact contaminants –- coal ash and other contaminants related to the facilities that have operated in that area over the years –- which must be addressed before the city can open the Harbor Walk to the public.

During a telephone interview, Friday, Nov. 9, Marshall said Public Works removed about 100 cubic yards of contaminated soil — about eight to 10 dump truck loads — from the site, which is located behind the Belfast Masker’s theater building.

“It’s about a 30-foot wide strip,” Marshall said of the contaminated area

Marshall said the Public Works Department removed about 15-inches of top soil, which is being stockpiled for later use. The city is authorized to use that material in the construction of road or sidewalks, as long as it is covered with a “hard cap” such as gravel or asphalt, Marshall said.

In addition to the soil contaminants, the city also learned the existing pier on the Front Street Shipyard property must be reinforced in order to meet the state mandated “maximum load” requirements, Marshall said.

The pier must be reinforced to handle an 85 pound-per-square-inch load to meet state specifications. The city is footing the engineering bill, about $5,000 to $6,000, and Front Street Shipyard will assume responsibility for reinforcing the pier, Marshall said.

As an example, Marshall explained Friday the maximum load requirement addresses a situation where a large number of people would gather on the pier, such as to watch a fireworks display.

Marshall said the extent of the work mostly calls for additional supports, noting the pier is fine to walk on in its present state.

Reinforcing the pier is mandated by the state because a $250,000 Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration grant was given to the city for the Harbor Walk project, which crosses the pier.

Because of the delays, the project will go out to bid by the beginning of December as opposed to the previous date of early October.

Councilor Mike Hurley suggested approaching Gov. LePage about the possibility of releasing bond funding that was previously frozen –– $400,000 of which was awarded to Belfast for the Harbor Walk.

City Manager Joseph Slocum said he would “gingerly” approach that topic with the state to determine if there is any chance the bond funding would be released.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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