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Work on GESD field started

Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent David Halloran reported to the Board of Education on Monday that work is underway to cap the contaminated playing field at Kingsborough Elementary School and opened discussions about planning a future capital project to fully remediate the field. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — Work to cap the contaminated playing field at Kingsborough Elementary School is currently underway. Now Gloversville Enlarged School District officials plan to begin discussing a future capital project that would include full remediation of the field.

GESD Superintendent David Halloran reported to the Board of Education on Monday that work is ongoing to cap the field at Kingsborough that was discovered to be contaminated with tannery waste in July.

The school district announced in August that tannery waste was identified in the playing field adjacent to Kingsborough by Ambient Environmental Inc., a firm the district hired in July to conduct soil and air testing at the site after recent physical changes to the field saw the surface become uneven and rutted with standing water in places and the odor of sulfur present.

Ambient identified tannery waste in 10 out of 17 excavated test pits on the field. The company took soil and water samples and monitored air quality over the course of the dig. The odor of sulfur was released while digging took place, but air quality in the “breathing zone” was not compromised at any time.

Concentrations of ethylbenzene, toluene and acetone in some soil samples were found to exceed the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s standards for unrestricted Soil Cleanup Objectives, meaning contamination is above the level at which the land could be used for any purpose without restrictions unless full remediation is performed.

Additionally, concentrations of certain semi-volatile organic compounds including lead and chromium in some of the analyzed soil samples exceeded the DEC’s unrestricted SCO standards and concentrations of several VOCs and SVOCs in analyzed water samples from two of the test pits exceeded the DEC’s groundwater standard.

Following the excavation each test pit where waste was located was backfilled and then covered with clean soil to limit surface exposure. As a precautionary measure access to the playing field was limited by a fence erected around the perimeter of the site.

The Board of Education approved a resolution on Aug. 26 authorizing an emergency project to cap the field by compacting the waste material and then covering it with a geotextile material with a 30-year useful life expectancy that would be covered with two feet of compacted sand material and finished with half a foot of topsoil covered with seed or sod.

The project cost is estimated at $150,000 to $200,000 and will once again render the surface safe for use as a playing field. The school board approved funding the project through the use of up to $200,000 from the district’s general fund balance before the state Education Department notified the district in September that some amount of state aid will be provided to support the project.

According to Halloran, work on the project began early last week with the contaminated ground already compacted and covered with the geotextile cover that contractors were working to cover with sand on Monday.

Once the two foot sand layer has been graded, Halloran said the layer of topsoil will be introduced and sod will be installed likely by the end of next week depending on the weather. Halloran said the playing field should be ready to safely be used by students once the ground freezes this winter.

“I’m really happy about where we are,” Halloran said.

While making the field safe for use in the immediate future has been a priority for the district, Halloran has made clear his intention to perform full remediation to render the field suitable for unrestricted use, allowing the district to follow through with plans to construct a bus loop and parking area on a portion of the field space to address safety concerns related to the existing traffic pattern at Kingsborough.

Halloran broached the subject of planning for a future capital project to perform remediation and install the parking area and bus loop along with several other safety related projects with the school board on Monday.

“We’re going to need some direction from the board on when we possibly may want to go out with a referendum on another capital project,” Halloran said.

In addition to projects at Kingsborough, Halloran pointed to replacement of roofs at most school buildings that will begin coming out of warranty in fall 2021 and installation of secure entrance vestibules across the district as needed projects for GESD’s next capital project.

“If we went out in May you’re still talking another year before anything is starting,” Halloran said. “I think we would be remiss to kick the can down the road, it takes 40 weeks in review anyway so I think the time is right.”

The district’s capital project manager, Bob Grande of Turner Construction, noted that the warranty on the roof at Gloversville Middle School that was replaced about eight years ago has a 30-year term, double the 15-year warranties that are set to expire for the district’s other school roofs, meaning that the middle school will not be eligible for state funding for replacement for some time.

“This is the roof that has the longest warranty left on it and SED has said they won’t start aiding you to put a new roof on if you still have a warranty on it,” Grande said. “Which is unfortunate, because it’s the worst one.”

Grande said that he has been working with district officials and attorneys to contact the warranty holder to address ongoing issues with roof leaks at the middle school that exist along spray foam seams that split on the cover board that was installed above old insulation when the roof was replaced.

Grande said the warranty holder has installed elastic seal tape along the seams to address leaks and GESD’s attorneys are working to secure an agreement stipulating that the warranty holder will respond to any leaks within four business days following notification and will cover the cost of any related building damages.

Halloran said the district does not plan to pursue any capital project items that will impact taxpayers and that he will discuss funding options for possible projects with district Treasurer Cathy Meher and financial advisor Rick Timbs for future discussion with the school board.

“We’re not looking to add another turf field, we’re trying to address things that we think are really important,” Halloran said. “I don’t plan to go to taxpayers for any local share, so we need to look at what’s aided and what we have in our reserves. We have a pretty healthy fund balance right now, so possibly creating a capital reserve would be prudent.”

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