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Sunday, Dec 3, 2023

CONSTRUCTION–Digs Uncover Area’s Contamination History

Ballpark Cleanup Turns Into a Long, Involved Process

As the environmental cleanup for the proposed Padres ballpark property moves ahead, workers have uncovered some good news, bad news and some history.

In a quest to find and clean up contamination in the area, workers have spent the last two years studying city and other historical records.

San Diego-based Environmental Business Solutions is overseeing the environmental cleanup of the ballpark district. The ballpark itself is scheduled to open in April 2002, but a variety of issues may delay its debut.

Missouri-based Jacobs Sverdrup Civil, Inc., is in charge of the excavation and cleanup. The 26-block, billion-dollar project will accommodate a 46,000-person capacity ballpark and surrounding commercial development in the East Village area of Downtown.

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Cleanup efforts include the land where the ballpark, parking structures and other development will take place.

EBS traced the area’s past during the first phase of the cleanup to determine the extent of the contamination, said Chris Spengler, the site project manager and the company’s senior staff engineer.

“We had a really good understanding of what was out there and what went on and the types of issues we would encounter,” he said.

– Ground And Water

Could Be Contaminated

The major contaminants so far are petroleum, solvents and metals. They have been discovered in both the dirt and water, Spengler said.

Once possible areas of contamination were identified, EBS took initial samplings to determine if any pollution was present. The company also coordinated testing efforts with other consultants who were hired by some of the property owners, he said.

Afterwards, the contaminated soil was excavated to a predetermined depth that should meet cleanliness standards, Spengler said.

The ballpark district is being cleaned in phases. The ballpark area has the highest priority, while the hotel, park and retail areas follow afterwards, said David Allsbrook, manager of contracting and acquisitions for the Centre City Development Corp., the city’s Downtown redevelopment agency.

A county-approved master work plan details the site’s intended use and the standards of cleanliness that must be achieved, Allsbrook said.

For example, the Park at the Park, an 8-acre picnic grounds adjacent to the ballpark, would have to be extremely clean because people will have direct contact with it, while a parking lot would not be required to meet such rigid standards.

– Contamination Measured

With Dirt Samples

Once removed, the soil is separated into piles that belong to different areas of the site. EBS tests samples of the dirt to check the contamination level, Spengler said.

The pollution levels of the dirt heaps determine whether it can be recycled or where the soil can be disposed, he said.

Tests on excavation site samples determine whether acceptable cleanup levels have been reached. If contamination is still found, then the area will continue to be excavated, he said.

Currently, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. is in the final stages of a cleanup of its own site, Allsbrook said.

SDG & E; owned six full blocks and parts of three others, which were used to manufacture gas, similar to natural gas, Spengler added.

The company removed 70,000 tons of contaminated soil, which probably makes it the largest excavation cleanup in the county’s history, he said.

Jacobs Sverdrup, which subcontracted the cleanup to Advanced Environmental, Inc., and EBS are cleaning up the site around the Western Metal Supply Co.

– Interesting Items

Found Underground

Crews have found some interesting items underground. They found what are believed to be three pipe-dipping furnaces connected to an underground flue in the Western Metal site, which has been around since the 1880s, Spengler said.

“We’re finding quite a bit It’s almost turning into an archaeological dig. We’re finding old foundries, ovens and underground brick flues. That’s quite unique , something we don’t get to dig up very often,” he added.

While there have been surprises in the Western Metal site excavation, the biggest surprise has been the number of areas that came up clean during the initial investigation, Spengler said.

So far, Spengler said the process has been going smoothly.

Allsbrook agreed, saying the Centre City Development Corp. has been pleased with the progress and most property owners have been very cooperative.

– City, Crews Deal

With Many Issues

Although the cleanup is running smoothly at this point, the city and work crews are dealing with a variety of issues that include a large number of property owners, properties, a compressed time schedule and litigation.

The city’s redevelopment agency currently possesses under eminent domain the land slated as the ballpark and hotel for the purpose of eliminating blight and redeveloping the area, Allsbrook said.

The CCDC is responsible for administering the city’s Downtown redevelopment plans, he added.

Only two properties are owned in fee by the city at this time.

The agency will take possession of the park and retail area on May 8. Offers to buy have not been made on properties east of 10th Avenue, he added.

Financing to buy some of the properties is dependent on a city bond issue scheduled for April, he said.

However, lawsuits regarding the issuance of the bonds could delay the process, he said.

Litigation issues also surround the funding for the environmental cleanup of the properties.


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