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Massena GM plant site remediation on schedule

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MASSENA — Contaminants beneath the former General Motors Powertrain plant should be fully removed by year’s end.

The remediation on the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site is on schedule to finish digging out a large concrete slab and contaminated soil beneath the former plant by the end of this month, according to Bill Callen, Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust project manager.

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 was the base of the factory and the contaminated soils below it.

That $15.3 million job went to D.A. Collins Cos. in Wilton, Saratoga County.

Cleanup crews have not had much trouble with the current phase of work, said Anne Kelly, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency project manager.

The next phase of the remediation project involves removal of 35,000 to 57,000 tons of contaminated soil along the lagoons between the former GM plant and the St. Lawrence River, according to Brendan Mullen, who is cleanup manager for the trust, which owns the site.

The trust is seeking bids for that portion of the project and plans to choose the contractor in mid-to-late January.

The work is projected to begin in February and end the following December, Mr. Mullen said.

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

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

“In phases one and two, we hired nonlocal 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, Mr. Mullen said.

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

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

St. Lawrence County Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett previously expressed dissatisfaction with the decision to hire an out-of-town company for the current phase.

“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.”

Mr. Mullen responded that local employment is only one of six criteria the trust needs to consider in the remediation of an EPA Superfund site.

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

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