By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Town of Carolina Beach continues to search for alternate locations to dispose of soil dredged from the Carolina Beach Lake on Lake Park Blvd. Dredging of the lake was suspended August 29th after the U.S. Army expressed concerns about dredge material removed from the lake being deposited at the wrong location on Army land off Dow Road.
On November 28th, Town Manager Michael Cramer recommended the Council consider terminating the contract until a future time when work can resume under a new contract.
In October the Town was notified that owners of one alternate location changed their minds about taking on the material following soil tests which showed higher levels of arsenic.
That land is located north of Snow's Cut Bridge in the undeveloped portion of the Tarin Woods residential neighborhood.
Town Manager Michael Cramer explained on Monday November 20th, the Town has contacted the U.S. Coast Guard about obtaining access to property on River Road just north of Carolina Beach in order to access property the Town owns behind the Coast Guard land.
During the Council's November 14th, meeting Cramer explained, "Over the past month since I updated Council we have made quite a bit of progress but it has been slow progress. First and foremost we have issued a request to have the contractor demobilize equipment from the lake dredging facility that way there is no concern about any additional cost that may be claimed or suggested by the contractor. At this point they have most of the heavy equipment off and the dredges and barges out of the lake. They are removing other equipment they have along side the lake and then they will clean it up to a state where we can look at it and inspect it to make sure there were not damages done, for instance to the sidewalk and things like that. Then we will clean up the rest of the location to at least a standard that we can utilize for the Island of Lights and the lights around the lake so people can walk around there.”
Cramer said that a meeting earlier that day between Town officials and U.S. Army Colonel Marc Mueller from the Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU) regarding placing dredge material from the Carolina Beach Lake on Army property was productive and positive.
The Town operates a waste water treatment plant on land leased from the Army since the 1970's on Dow Road on the west side of the Island. The land is part of the buffer zone for the U.S. Army Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point (MOTSU). The terminal is one of two large volume deep-water ammunition terminals in the continental United States. Operations are located on the other side of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County and the "buffer zone" occupies a large portion of Pleasure Island encompassing land in both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach on the riverside of the Island.
Cramer said he was still awaiting a decision from MOTSU on how the Town should deal with the material already placed on the property.
He said, “We did have a third set of environmental studies done around the lake and on the MOSTU property… our previous two studies did not establish a baseline for containments or chemicals in the soil around the lake in general. So we didn’t have a baseline to say that there is nothing over here and yes there is something in the lake. So we wanted to go one step farther. Drew a baseline on the property surrounding both locations, the disposal location and the lake itself, test the actual water quality of the water in the lake that we did not do previously, and the ground water below and around the lake and around the MOTSU facility along with the soils that we took out of the lake and the soils that are still in the lake.”
He explained, “We expanded our search in order to go and try and get a finer degree of information that we could look at and give to regulators on what we could do with the spoils. Basically what came back was that the baseline for the area outside of the lake and MOTSU contains no arsenic. The water in the lake itself contains no arsenic. The ground water under and around the lake and MOSTU contains no arsenic. The soil that we took out of the lake and put onto the MOTSU property contains no arsenic. All good news. What we found is that we didn’t confirm that there is arsenic left in the material that is in the lake. Not exactly the pin point precision of exactly where the line of demarcation is, but we do know that out of six samples that were taken, three of them had hits of arsenic. Two of them above the commercial and industrial level. The next step in this process is to go and test and find exactly where that is and determine how much material that may provide and then determine can we do other dredging in that area but not disturb that soil, or, if we do take out that soil, where can we put it.”
Previous tests showed higher levels of arsenic and suggest that the material is suitable for placement on a commercial parcel, but may not be suitable for placement in residential areas or for structural use.
Cramer said he’s been speaking with various state agencies, “All to try and determine exactly what or what cannot be done with the material and where it could or could not go. At this point our permit says that we can place it anywhere but that does not necessarily mean that you have all the permits that you have to for a specific site to contain that. So that is sort of our next step in this gathering of information so that Council can make a good solid decision on where to go from this point forward."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, “We’ve had three soil scientists look at this property years ago, not to long ago and again recently. And we had different reports from all three of them so to say that there is no arsenic in this ground when one of the other reports says there was and then to tell us that all of the dirt that we took out had no arsenic but we still had arsenic in the soil tells me that we were the luckiest at how we dredged that soil. We managed to pull out just the material without arsenic in it according to what you just presented. We’ve got to hear from the soil scientists. I need to understand. One of the questions I asked you was to make sure they can give us mitigation techniques for materials they found in it."
On August 29th the Army visited the facility and had concerns with the location on the property where dredge material from the lake is being stored. That prompted them to require the Town to stop hauling material to the property pending further discussions and research. The Army had previously given permission to utilize a specific portion of the property and noticed another area was being used to store the dredge material.
Robert M. Jewell, Deputy Chief, Real Estate Division of the U.S. Army's Savannah District sent a letter to Mayor Dan Wilcox dated September 15th, 2017. Jewell wrote in the letter the Town must take the following actions immediately:
• Cease and desist further dumping of dredge material and construction debris in or upon all US Government land, including, but not limited to, those lands under lease or easement; and
• Refrain from future deposit of dredge/construction debris of any kind; and
• Restore the leased and easement areas, as well as other impacted sites on US Government property immediately and complete the restoration to the satisfaction of the Commander, Military Ocean
Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU). A date for completion of this required restoration shall be provided by separate written notice to the Town of Carolina Beach.
The Town Council awarded a bid to Civil Works Contracting in the amount of $2,766,338 during their January 10th, meeting to dredge the lake. The goal is to make the lake deeper to a consistent depth of 6' to 8' feet and improve capacity to hold approximately 16 million gallons of storm water runoff that has traditionally caused flooding of surrounding properties and roadways. The total volume to be removed from the lake was estimated to be approximately 83,000 cubic yards of material. The original completion date for the project was scheduled for February 9th, 2018.
When the project was suspended August 29th, the contractor had removed approximately 30,000 cubic yards of material to the wastewater treatment plant.
During the November 28th, workshop the Council discussed the soil samples with several experts in that field.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth questioned Cramer about terminating the contract until the Town can work out all of the logistics and permitting issues and hopefully come back in the future and continue the project and remove the remaining dredge material from the lake under a new contract.
Shuttleworth said it could take time to work out the details of any agreement and in the meantime, the impact to residents living in the area of the lake should be minimized by removing the equipment and returning the area to a status quo until they can return in the future to finish the project once a disposal location can be located.
Cramer explained, "Yes we can and that is the recommendation of all management and staff at the Town of Carolina Beach and our subject matter experts." He said, "There would
be nothing there. It would be back to the original condition until we come up with a plan. Then we would go back out to bid for the remaining 40,000 cubic yards. We would know where we are putting what and how we are handling it. What property we can use" and other permitting issues.
Cramer explained that without terminating the existing contract, the contractor would likely leave some equipment in place because, "Those are still things they could use for the future if we don't terminate" the contract.
The Council will consider terminating the contract with Civil Works at their upcoming December 12th, meeting.
Guidelines sent to the Town by MOTSU officials calls for removal of the material already placed on their property within three to five years. The cost of moving that material is unknown due to a lack of a alternate disposal location. Distance of travel plays a major role in terms of cost to transport the dirt.
Mayor Dan Wilcox said, "I think you should really know the actual cost involved about terminating it and entering a new contract before you make that decision because it could be substantial. We are under a contract now with certain cost factors that are outlined and that may change substantially. It may or may not be in our benefit."