PCBs removal at YMCA project nears completion

The former Concentrix call center at 146 Arsenal St. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Local officials should learn today whether an environmental cleanup is completed and construction can finally start on the long-awaited YMCA project in a former Arsenal Street call center.

The environmental cleanup of PCBs began in August to remove PCBs from the building’s floor tiles on top of its cement floor.

But test results for a small section of flooring is expected back today that will determine whether the $2 million cleanup is completed in the former call center at 146 Arsenal St.

An engineering firm is still working on the final design for the YMCA’s community center project. Construction is slated to start early next year.

“So we’ll have some time before construction of the YMCA project begins,” said David J. Zembiec, chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development.

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.

The YMCA project has been delayed since last summer while the environmental cleanup work was done, using a method called scarifying to remove a layer of the cement at a time.

The Jefferson County Industrial Agency, the JCEDC’s sister organization, continues to own the building but will turn it over to the YMCA once testing determines the PCBs are cleaned up.

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.

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

During the cleanup, the floor was blocked off in 650 10-by-10 squares.

An eighth of an inch of sections of the flooring were completed at a time and tested whether the PCBs were successfully removed. If more contaminants were found, another eighth of inch of the flooring was then removed, Mr. Zembiec said.

As much as three-quarters of an inch of flooring was removed.

Test results for the last 12 squares will be known later today. If they come back clean, the YMCA construction can begin, Mr. Zembiec said. If not, then the cement must be removed in that 12-square section.

The PCBs in the building’s flooring have not posed a health risk because they had been contained.

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

Purcell Construction, the general contractor for the YMCA project, oversaw the PCBs cleanup and was paid extra for it.

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, and most recently a call center.

Engineers from Paradigm Environmental Services, Watertown, developed the remediation plan with Sessler Environmental Services, Macedon, Wayne County.

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(1) comment


We are the lucky recipients of an "externality." How long ago were pundits deriding condemnation of asbestos and lead as tantamount to communism? They sell you the stuff one day and the next day their lobbyists get the government to mandate that you pay them to take it out. What stuff are we doing now that is like that for the future? Shouldn't we stop falling for it?

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