Construction monitoring group discusses pollutants, dirt

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Construction halted earlier this year at the Robinson Terminal South site when human-looking remains were found in what looked like a coffin. It turned out to be animal remains in a coffin-shaped privy.
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By Missy Schrott | [email protected] 

The Ad Hoc Monitoring Group for Waterfront Construction met Monday night to address updates at sites along the waterfront. Discussion centered on pollutants at Robinson Terminal North and the dirt piles at Robinson Terminal South.

Last week, the ad hoc group held a special meeting with representatives from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to address pollutants at RTN. While VDEQ representatives reported that there were no significant levels of toxic substances, neighbors at Monday’s discussion were primarily concerned with liability for cleaning up the site.

A retired engineer, one of about 10 residents to attend the meeting, wanted to know who was responsible for the site, and if the current owner, CityInterests and Rooney Properties, walks away, whether the city would be stuck with the clean-up tab.

VDEQ representatives stated last week that whoever buys the property will be responsible for cleaning it up. John Bordner, who chairs the ad hoc group, said the VDEQ would return when there was a purchaser. Neighbors, however, were asking who would be responsible if something happens before the property sells.

As an action item, the monitoring group will ask City Attorney James Banks to comment on the property’s “ownership chain of custody.”

Another concern raised by the group is the issue of dirt piles at the RTS site. Neighbors expressed frustration with the archeology-related dirt piles and the dust that arises on windy days. Emilio Pundavela of the Alexandria Department of Transportation & Environmental Services reported that there was “no such thing” in the city code as covering dirt piles, but that the construction sites were still following federal regulations and trying to fix the problem.

Most of the debris piles formed after Pioneer Mills was uncovered. The first solution was to cover them with plastic sheets, but the sheets were not secure enough and allowed wind to get underneath. The current solution is straw and seed on every pile, including the gravel, since the piles are constantly moving and could not sustain a permanent fix.

The piles themselves are temporary and should be taken care of by the time the archaeology projects are completed in an estimated 30 days.

The group also discussed concerns about power and cable outages while construction is going on at RTS. Bordner said the monitoring group would continue to make sure that citizens are given advance notice if there is a planned outage.

The group will meet again Nov. 6.

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