Cost of YMCA project grows

Local officials on Thursday appropriated an additional $300,000 for environmental cleanup at the long-awaited Watertown Family YMCA community center project in the former call center at 146 Arsenal St. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The cost has gone up another $300,000 for some additional work that had to be done to clean up PCBs from the long-awaited YMCA downtown community and aquatics center project.

Members of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency got an update Thursday morning on the environmental cleanup in the sprawling former call center on Arsenal Street.

The JCIDA appropriated an additional $300,000 to the cleanup, increasing the cost to $2.6 million. The remediation project was originally going to cost $2 million.

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

The JCIDA board learned on Thursday that a six-person crew would complete the remediation during the overnight hours of Thursday night.

JCIDA board members plan to take a tour of the site Monday morning.

“I’d love just to see what work was actually done,” board member Paul J. Warneck said.

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 an elevated running track and several other amenities.

The $20 million YMCA project has been delayed since last summer while the environmental cleanup work was done, using a method called scarifying to remove the cement one layer at a time.

The JCIDA continues to own the building but will soon turn it over to the YMCA, now that the PCBs are cleaned up.

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

PCBs — oily liquids and solids used as coolants and for a variety of industrial applications — were banned in the U.S. in 1979 because of health hazards.

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

The JCIDA is responsible for the $2.6 million in costs for 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, and most recently a call center.

During the cleanup, the floor was blocked off into 650 squares, each 10 feet by 10 feet.

The flooring cleanup was completed by one-eighth inch sections at a time, testing whether the PCBs were successfully removed. If more contaminants were found, another one-eighth inch of the flooring was then removed. As much as three-quarters of an inch of flooring was removed.

Ten squares still contained PCBs, so work crews had to dig up the concrete floor in that section, said Michael Ramon, of Purcell Construction, the YMCA’s general contractor also overseeing the cleanup.

Six squares were finished on Wednesday, with the eight-person crew returning Thursday to finish up the job.

With that work done, a concrete covering will be poured in the next few weeks to make the floor smooth again, said David J. Zembiec, chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development, the JCIDA’s sister organization,

Mr. Ramon had hoped the concrete pouring could start immediately but the winter storm has prevented a concrete company from mobilizing Friday.

“I’m frustrated,” Mr. Ramon said, adding that the pouring will take place three days next week and two days during the following week.

Engineers from Paradigm Environmental Services, Watertown, developed the remediation plan with Sessler Environmental Services, Macedon, Wayne County, while Rochester’s AAC completed the actual cleanup.

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