No contamination at central office site
By Emily ford
SALISBURY – Despite hosting two former service stations, the downtown site where Rowan-Salisbury Schools will build a new central office is not contaminated, the architect said.
And that clears the way for the project to advance, with construction potentially starting in early November.
Bill Burgin said the location in the 300 block of South Main Street has undergone three assessments. The soil, history of the location and existing building, which is scheduled for demolition, contain no evidence of environmental contamination or hazardous material, Burgin said.
“You never know when you’re going to work on a service station site,” he said. “But everything we do know says there is not.”
Burgin’s firm hired ESP Associates in Charlotte to conduct three tests, including:
• Hazardous materials test
Required by state law before demolition, this test came back clean, showing no asbestos, which Burgin said surprised him.
“This is the first time in my 30 years that a building of that era came back clean of asbestos,” he said.
The building was constructed in the 1950s or early ’60s.
• Environmental report
It’s not required by the state, but “logic says you better do it if you’re dealing with an old service station,” Burgin said.
This report, which is a search of environmental records, showed no evidence of either onsite or offsite Record of Environmental Consideration, or REC.
“They didn’t find anything to indicate something of concern,” Burgin said.
To compile the report, consultants used hundreds of documents, including Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, chain of title, U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps and more than 50 years of aerial photographs to track the environmental history of the site, Burgin said.
• Soil report
While testing the soil to determine the best type of foundation for the building, the consultants also looked for contaminants, Burgin said. They drilled seven borings, including one 50 feet deep, and found none.
Due to results of the soil report and the location of the future central office in a busy downtown, Burgin said he will use Geopiers as the foundation for the three-story building. This will avoid driving piles into the ground, which can be felt for blocks, he said.
He acknowledged there could be contamination on the site that wasn’t picked up during the assessments, which were completed in May.
“If we find anything at all, it will be while we do the Geopiers,” Burgin said. “If we find anything, we will deal with it then, but we have every indication that we will not find anything.”
The subsurface research – part of the environmental report – documented nine oil tanks in the history of the property. While documents track the installation and removal of the seven tanks used most recently, records show only the installation of two original tanks, Burgin said.
Known as “orphan tanks” because there is no record of their removal, these tanks likely no longer exist, Burgin said.
It would have been almost impossible for a service station to install seven tanks on the corner lot without first removing existing tanks, he said.
A 1991 letter from N.C. Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources said the state had received analysis of soil samples collected during the closure of underground storage tanks at the site – then Arey’s Texaco – and no further action was required.
“That’s about as good as you could hope for,” Burgin said. “They don’t make assumptions.”
Bids for construction of the central office will be opened at 3 p.m. Sept. 27 in the Stanback Room at Rowan Public Library.
Burgin must seek approval of the bid by the school board and Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
At the earliest, groundbreaking could take place the last week of October, he said, with construction beginning in early November.
The existing service station should come down within a week of starting construction, he said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
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