Environmental concerns slow Central Electric building purchaseDavison County Commission awaiting report on PCBs.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Maintenance Supervisor Mark Ruml told the Davison County commissioners Tuesday at the courthouse that he is still awaiting test results for PCBs at the site of the old Central Electric Cooperative building at 1420 N. Main St.
The county has plans to use the building as a community health clinic and for commission meetings, but its purchase has been delayed pending the receipt of environmental reports and final insurance arrangements for hail damage repairs. The purchase price is $575,000.
An outbuilding on the east side of the Central Electric lot was used to store electrical transformers. Transformers at one time used PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) for cooling purposes. The Environmental Protection Agency has rated PCBs as potentially carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, materials. If present, they could present a health hazard that would require a cleanup.
Previous information Ruml received that the site had been cleared for PCBs turned out to be inaccurate, Ruml said. GeoTek Engineering, of Sioux Falls, tested the Central Electric building for asbestos in January 2011, he said, but the company never completed PCB testing because the ground was snow-covered at the time.
Ruml said he only learned about the missing PCB report in July while assembling test documentation for insurance purposes. After making that discovery, he brought GeoTek in for PCB testing.
But Tuesday, Ruml expressed concern about the procedures followed during the GeoTek tests, which were done inside the detached storage building east of the main Central Electric building. He said he watched a technician from GeoTek probe the soil inside the building with a large screwdriver and use special wipes to collect samples from concrete surfaces inside the building. The technician also took some surface soil samples in the building, he said, but no core soil samples were taken.
“We need to get some deep core samples, not something superficial,” Commissioner Jerry Fischer said.
Commissioner Denny Kiner agreed. “It needs to be done right, because once you buy it, you’re responsible.”
Ruml said he was told by GeoTek on Tuesday afternoon that unless technicians see evidence that soil has been moved, they do not take core samples, and GeoTek’s testing methods follow EPA guidelines.
Ruml said he was told by GeoTek representatives that the company will take core samples if the county commissioners wish. He will wait to see GeoTek’s report from the July testing before making any further recommendations.
Burn ban passed
The commissioners passed the second reading of a burn ban ordinance. The measure makes provisions for a 30-day jail sentence and a $500 fine for county residents who conduct opening burning once the commissioners declare a fire danger emergency.
There is currently a burn ban in effect, but the new ordinance will give it more teeth.
Roads or equipment?
In ongoing budget reviews, the commissioners determined that the 2013 highway fund will have about $1.784 million in estimated revenue from federal, state and local sources. About $1 million more would come from the county general fund.
That’s not enough to fix county roads and replace aging road equipment, said Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg.
“Right now I believe the money is better spent on roads,” he said. “They are a must.”
Weinberg pointed out that deferred maintenance typically ends up costing more. Commissioner Gerald Weiss expressed concern that the county will face a large equipment bill soon unless some funds are set aside.
While gravel roads are cheap to maintain, Weinberg said, most county road money goes to the repair of asphalt roads.
Weinberg said it will cost the county about $1.6 million to repair seven miles of Betts Road and two miles of 247th Street over two years, but those costs could rise to $1.8 million if rising oil prices drive up the cost of asphalt next year.
Shingle nail complaints
Commissioner John Claggett said he has received multiple complaints of flat tires from county residents who use the road to the Mitchell landfill south of town. The flats are apparently caused by roofing nails that fall off trucks hauling damaged shingles to the landfill.
Roofs throughout Mitchell have been re-shingled in the months following a May hailstorm.
Claggett said he was told by Mitchell Street and Sanitation Superintendent Ron Olson that his workers run powerful magnets over the road at least twice a day, but it only takes one sloppy load to create problems.
In other business, commissioners:
• Approved a raffle permit to aid the Helping Hand Pantry during the Nov. 10 Holiday Shopping Extravaganza.
• Heard from Deputy Don Radel that the county is working to secure a new site for a digital repeater in the Ethan area. The department’s repeater was previously mounted on Ethan’s old water tower, which has been razed. Patrol cars can still communicate without the repeater, he explained, but the device gives hand-held radios a stronger signal and an increased range.
• Heard from Emergency Management Director Jim Montgomery that the county will take part in a Sept. 22 state-mandated training exercise. Aurora and Hanson counties will also participate in the exercise, which will involve a simulated hazardous materials spill.