PCB remediation to begin this fall for YMCA project

Rendering of the Watertown Family YMCA’s proposed community center. Submitted photo

WATERTOWN — It could cost as much as $2 million to clean up some PCB environmental problems found at the Watertown Family YMCA’s community center in a former call center on Arsenal Street.

The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency approved a contract Wednesday with Purcell Construction to clean up the PCBs found under the floor of the building at 146 Arsenal St.

The building will be converted into a facility with a six-lane lap pool, a separate full-size recreational pool, two full-size tennis courts with a running track above and several other amenities.

During the special JCIDA meeting on Wednesday, Purcell officials said the Y project could be delayed as much as five months. They hope the cleanup will start in early September.

Purcell will be paid a $1.7 million “lump sum” for the remediation project. The top eighth of an inch of the cement floor will be removed as part of the environmental cleanup.

Tests will determine whether another eighth of an inch of the floor also must be removed if more of the contaminants are found, said David J. Zembiec, chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development.

Purcell will receive additional compensation for that work. Once all the flooring is removed, a 1 3/4-inch cement cover will be installed before work begins on the Y project. Purcell also is the general contractor for the Y project.

The Environmental Protection Agency must determine whether all the PCBs have been removed before the Y project can begin.

JCIDA board member Paul Warnick asked his fellow board members if they were comfortable with the agreement with Purcell.

“I think it’s a good contract,” said attorney Justin Miller, who represents the economic development agency.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were banned in the U.S. in 1979 because those chemicals are a health hazard. They were widely used in electrical equipment and hydraulic fluids and as lubricants.

The PCBs in the building’s flooring have not posed a health risk because they remain contained, but the construction project will disturb them.

The JCIDA, which still owns the building, is responsible for the costs of the remediation.

The contamination was discovered while testing was being conducted to determine the existence of asbestos in the floor tiles in the 68,000-square-foot building that once housed an F.W. Woolworth store constructed in 1971.

An adhesive, used to install the floor tiles, contains a PCB-contaminated oil that has seeped into the cement underneath the tiles.

To get rid of the PCBs, a method called scarifying will be used to remove a layer of the cement. Engineers from Paradigm Environmental Services, Watertown, have concluded the PCBs issue was not as bad as it could have been.

Most recently, the building housed a call center, operated by Concentrix, until it closed in 2019.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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