HUNTINGTON – The obstacles faced by the Cabell County Board of Education in building the new Davis Creek Elementary School are not what many thought.
The planned site, the site of the former Barboursville Brick Company, has long been the focus of discussions about pollutants and has not had a tenant since the factory was closed in 1979.
But contaminated soil isn’t the biggest hurdle school boards have to overcome in order to build there – it’s the composition of the soil.
EnviroProbe Integrated Solutions, a geotechnical and environmental drilling, sampling, and analysis company, was contracted by Cabell County Schools to conduct a study of the land and underlying properties for residential construction regulations.
Accumulations of whole and partial bricks up to 4.5 meters below the surface were found in several places on the property, which either had to be completely removed and replaced or otherwise refurbished in order to create a secure foundation for each building. That’s what EnviroProbe officials said.
When the former buildings on the property were demolished more than a decade ago, the materials were used to backfill the property. This material stays below the surface and has formed a liquid, porous mass that is currently unsuitable for building.
There are two ways to fix the problem. One of these is completely removing the infill where a building would be, or drilling through the unstable material to install a floating concrete base that sits on stable ground well below the surface.
Either option would be very expensive, with an estimated cost of $ 30 to $ 50 per square foot or between $ 1.3 and $ 2.5 million for the new building.
The Brickyard property was previously valued, most recently in 2010, by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, specifically the office of the Volunteer Rehabilitation Program, which aims to convert old properties for new use.
The previous VRP found several contaminants in the soil, soil vapor and groundwater on site but was measured and compared to regulations suitable for commercial use.
This time the results were subjected to different standards that are more stringent and required further testing beyond the minimum for commercial use.
“When the previous tests were done there were some constraints, mostly related to budgeting, but we had the flexibility to focus on what the residents of the property would be exposed to and enter the building,” said Neil Capper. Manager of EnviroProbe focus, we were able to determine that the property complies with the VRP’s residential use standards. They didn’t look at what we did in the original review. “
One contaminant in excess of acceptable levels for home use was naphthalene, a common compound in heavy fuel oils such as diesel fuel and lubricating oils.
To eliminate the risk of exposure, a vapor barrier and ventilation system would be required for every inhabited building on the property.
Arsenic was detected in all samples taken on the property and while traditionally above recommended levels for residential use, they were below average levels of arsenic found in the soil in the area and were therefore considered safe for building.
Cabell County Schools have not yet closed on the Brickyard property still legally owned by the village of Barboursville. The property purchase is expected to be completed in the next few weeks, Superintendent Ryan Saxe said.
When this purchase is completed, Cabell County Schools will attempt to revise the land use agreement to allow them to build a residential building on the project site (currently prohibited). Limitations of this LUC that would remain in place are the prohibited use of groundwater and the vapor barrier and passive ventilation requirements for inhabited buildings.
“It will be a safe place for our students and staff for years to come – especially after we have taken the necessary steps that the DEP has provided. This is one thing we can check off and say we have now done our due diligence, ”said Saxe. “This property will be a great candidate for a new school.”
The Cabell County Education Committee will meet at the Central Office on Tuesday, July 20 from 4:30 p.m. on a number of human, financial, and political agenda items, including approving interagency agreements with multiple health care facilities to provide opportunities for students residing in the Practical Nursing program are enrolled to gain clinical experience during the 2021-22 school year.
Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeCreasy or call him at 304-526-2800.