Norfolk residents convened Tuesday evening for the fourth gas spill update meeting since the Nov. 5 spill.
First Selectman Matt Riiska reported that the meeting was businesslike with the exception of a question from the floor regarding allowing the remediation company to start work on private property. “There was a comment from the floor regarding when the landowners will give permission for [cleanup crews] to get onto their properties” Riiska said. “Right now, it’s a case of trying to work through this to address everyone’s concerns. We are trying to move this along for everyone’s benefit.”
Another question from the audience was regarding offering alternative housing during the remediation process planned for this spring. Riiska responded, “The Town has worked with a number of residents over the past four months, locating and providing funding for alternative housing. We will continue to assist in any way we can.”
The cleanup is the top priority for more than one reason. In addition to wanting to remove all environmental contaminants, the town has projects in the pipeline that will be delayed until the cleanup is complete.
Concern was expressed that there has been little activity in recent weeks, but the audience was assured that testing and remediation continues, with much more to come in the spring. Riiska commented that this is far from over and he wants Norfolk residents to understand that there are still residents whose lives have been disrupted by this event.
Verdantas, the firm monitoring the movement of contaminants in water and soil, has submitted a plan to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). It has yet to be approved, but Riiska anticipates it will be. “The plan is to have all remediation done sometime in June, if not sooner.” he said, but expressed skepticism about that schedule. “With the construction season opening up, we will need to move quickly to have Verdantas plan approved by the DEEP.”
The extensive work planned by the town for Maple Avenue will be affected by reclamation efforts, which are now projected to affect a wider area than originally foreseen. Bids for the town’s project are being reviewed, but Riiska said he is discussing the issue with the town’s lawyer. Guerrera Construction, Inc., of Oxford, a firm the town has worked with in the past, is working with the state on the cleanup and Riiska believes it might be prudent to have the same firm work with the town as well.
“The cleanup area is getting bigger, not because of contamination, but because of all of the infrastructure that will be corrected, particularly the storm water damaged system on Pettibone Lane and Maple Avenue. This will require more coordination than we had originally planned,” he said. “It makes sense to have one company do all the reconstruction work associated with the remediation process and the refurbishment of Maple Avenue.”