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Saturday, November 28 News

Another $1.7 million approved for contaminated sites in Fairfield

FAIRFIELD — Another $1.69 million has been approved to address a number of contaminated sites throughout town, bringing the total to more than $3 million so far.

The selectmen and finance board unanimously approved the $1.69 million in bonds to clean up seven sites, most of which are connected to the fill pile — a contentious subject in town that led to a number of town officials facing charges. Lead, polychlorinated biphenyls — or PCBs — and other contaminants have been found in the fill pile.

The sites include the Jennings Beach parking lot, McKinley Elementary School, the Osborn Elementary School parking area, Mill Hill Elementary School, Sunset Avenue, the tennis facility at Old Dam Road and Southport Beach, according to town documents.

First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said at a meeting Monday that the bond resolution comes after months of back and forth between the town and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection over remediation plans for the seven sites.

“They finally signed off on our consent order,” she said. “And so, now, we have approval to go forward.”

The 20-year bonds also cover environmental investigations at the fill pile, Penfield Beach and the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

Chief Administrative Officer Tom Bremer said the funding cannot come soon enough, as the town has basically exhausted the $1.8 million allotted in its operating budget for fill testing and remediation from more than a year ago.

Conservation director Brian Carey said the funding will cover testing, remediation and cleanup. He noted that most of the work is “shovel-ready.”

Both boards voted to separate the bond into two resolutions: $1.48 million for work related to the fill pill and $202,000 for investigations at the wastewater treatment plant. Selectman Tom Flynn suggested this because the contaminants at the plant are unrelated to the fill pile scandal.

The fill pile controversy started in January 2017, when lead and PCBs were found at the Richard White Way site. The pile was being operated by Julian Enterprises. Under the contract signed between the town and Julian Enterprises, Julian would process soil and non-hazardous materials from town building sites at the facility to be sold as clean fill.

As the town and Julian Enterprises sued each other in the aftermath of the discovery, the cost of remediation continued to climb. Compounding the matter, it was found that contaminated soil from the pile may have been used in development projects in town.

In January 2019, Fairfield Police announced that the pile was the subject of a criminal investigation regarding illegal dumping of hazardous materials.

Joseph Michelangelo, who served as the town’s public works director since 2012, is accused of conspiring with Scott Bartlett, the town’s superintendent of public works, and Jason Julian to allow the company to dump truckloads of contaminated waste into the pile.

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Michaelangelo was charged with second-degree forgery, conspiracy to commit second-degree forgery and illegal dumping; Bartlett and Julian are charged with multiple counts of first-degree larceny, first-degree forgery, second-degree forgery, conspiracy, paying and receiving kickbacks and illegal dumping charges.

More recently, former Fairfield Chief Financial Officer Robert Mayer was arrested for allegedly removing documents about the hazardous fill pile.

joshua.labella@hearstmediact.com

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