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GM plant remediation on schedule

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MASSENA - The contaminants below the former General Motors Powertrain plant should be fully removed by the year’s end.

The remediation on the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund is on schedule to finish digging out a large concrete slab and contaminated soil beneath the former plant by the end of December, Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust Project Manager Bill Callen said.

Crews demolished the former automotive plant last year, and have spent much of this year removing the 20-acre, 855,000-square-foot concrete slab that once was underneath the factory and the contaminated soils below it. That $15.3 million job went to D.A. Collins Companies in Wilton, Saratoga County.

Cleanup crews have not had much trouble with the current phase of work, Environmental Protection Agency Project Manager Anne Kelly said. They will occasionally encounter something they didn’t know was underneath the plant, but have been able to overcome those obstacles, she said.

The next phase of the remediation involves the removal of between 35,000 and 57,000 tons of contaminated soil along the lagoons between the former GM plant and the St. Lawrence River, according to Brendan Mullen, cleanup manager for RACER, the site’s owner. RACER is currently biding contracts for that portion of the project and plans to choose the contractor in mid- to late-January. The work is projected begin in February and end in December 2013, Mr. Mullen said.

Mr. Callen said RACER received six bids from six contractors, including two local companies.

Mr. Mullen could not provide details regarding the amount of local employment an out of town contractor would provide, but noted that previous non-local contractors employed a high-percentage of local workers.

“In phases one and two, we hired non-local contractors and maintained above 70 percent local employment. The history speaks for itself,” Mr. Mullen said.

There are 38 cleanup personnel working on-site, 29 of whom are Massena area employees, according to Mr. Mullen.

“We’re tracking on what we anticipated,” he said.

Some members of the North Country Redevelopment Task Force have been critical of RACER for what they perceived as a lack of local hiring.

Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett previously expressed dissatisfaction with RACER’s decision to hire an out of town company for the current phase of work.

“I was very disappointed that didn’t go to a local contractor,” Mr. Arquiett said. “The 75 percent local commitment to me should be closer to 100 percent.

“That represents tax dollars leaving the area,” he said. “That’s a big issue with me personally.”

Mr. Mullen responded that local employment is only one of six criteria that RACER needs to consider in the remediation of a EPA superfund site.

“The contractors we hire need to have a demonstrated ability to handle superfund sites,” he said.

EPA officials previously estimated the majority of cleanup at the Superfund site would be complete by 2016.

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