BROOKSVILLE — While Hernando County officials plan to begin removing contaminated soil at the old department of public works compound soon, they will likely also be conducting more tests at the same time.
And the bill continues to climb.
A new round of tests, primarily water samples but also some additional soil tests, are expected to cost the county another $217,508. County commissioners will be asked to approve that Tuesday.
This is the 12th change order on the contract, awarded without competitive bids to Creative Environmental Solutions in October 2005, that started out at $77,050. If approved by the commission, this latest addition will bring the total cost so far to more than $2-million.
Since 2005, the company has been determining the extent of water and soil contaminated by chemicals and fuel over a period of years. Awareness of the contamination and calls to have it cleaned up go back more than a decade earlier than that.
Each time the consultant has tested and sent results to the state Department of Environmental Protection, county officials have optimistically predicted the cleanup was about to begin.
That's what assistant county engineer Gregg Sutton said after the last round of tests early this year. But after studying the results for months, DEP officials notified the county in late August that more testing is needed before the county can begin a remediation plan.
The new testing won't stop the county's plan to begin removing the first two feet of surface soil, a project pushed by County Administrator David Hamilton after he heard numerous concerns from neighbors in Mitchell Heights about the time it was taking to get the work done.
In an Aug. 25 letter to the county, DEP waste administrator William Kutash suggests the county start immediate remediation of "soil hot spots and off-property areas of contaminated soil.'' He also suggests the county develop a specific removal proposal to talk to DEP officials about before it is implemented.
Sutton said Friday part of the consultant's work in this new phase of the contract will be to anticipate the remediation plan he hopes will come soon. He said he is confident that stage will come next and he said he noted a "we're in the home stretch'' tone in the DEP letter.
"Depending on the results, this should enable us to complete the site assessment,'' Sutton said.
The length of time this project has taken is one of the points Hamilton made in his recent two-week-unpaid suspension of Sutton's boss, Charles Mixson, the public works director. Mixson was knocked for numerous mistakes including failing to help make Sutton successful in projects such as the DPW cleanup and the long-awaited dredging of the Hernando Beach Channel.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.