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Soil tests show small traces of chemical at proposed school site

School District 833 officials got a favorable report last week about soil samples from the proposed site for a third high school at Dale Road and Woodbury Drive in Woodbury.

"As expected, trace levels of perflurochemicals (PFCs) were detected in each sample," according to Mark Ciampone, project scientist for Braun Intertec, in a report to the district. "These concentrations shouldn't pose any concerns."

He said the sample results were consistent with soil study results from tests conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health.

School Board members will decide between the Dale Road site and an 80-acre site on Bailey Road and Pioneer Drive on Thursday, Nov. 16.

Some board members were concerned about the Dale Road site because there is a 3M Company dump site located about a quarter-mile south of the proposed site.

The company used the site from 1960 to 1966 when isopropyl ether was discovered in a nearby shallow residential well, Mike Connelly, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency liaison for the 3M site said at the board's Nov. 2 workshop meeting.

The company burned the waste in 1968, before the existence of hazardous waste disposal regulations. Tests conducted by 3M showed "the majority of the solid waste and solvents were destroyed in the burning process," according to an agency report.

Four barrier wells were installed and ground water is being sent by a pipeline to the Cottage Grove 3M plant and used in its cooling process.

Company studies in 1992 and 1993, with agency approval, were conducted and showed "relatively low levels of contamination," according to Connelly's report. The agency noted that additional "aggressive cleanup measures were not necessary."

The disposal areas are also covered with two feet of compacted soil containing some clay, which slows the process of chemicals leaching into the ground water.

Connelly said groundwater contamination is not a risk. Minnesota Health Department well reports show "no escape" from the site. "We are near the end of management," he said.

"On a scale of one to 10, how much would you be concerned?" asked board member Jim Gelbmann.

"It's low or insignificant in terms of risk," Connelly said. "It's more of a concern about the perceptions of people. They have a fear of that."

The school would get city water from a water main extension on Bailey Road, according to site plans.

Board members Denise Kapler and Marsha Adou are concerned about ashes from burning the 3M site that might have drifted onto the soil of the school site. Ashes might have residues of chemicals in the perfluoroctanoate family that do not completely break down when burned, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

District superintendent Tom Nelson said 3M has agreed to fence the site.

The board is also concerned about possible electromagnetic interference at the site from the WYCS Christian radio station tower south of the site.

Building specifications call for commercial-grade coatings on electrical cables that will block radio signals, according to Wayne Buse, Hallberg Engineering, district consultant.

"Measurements of radio signals at the site were lower than we expected them to be," said Garrett Lysiak, Owl Engineering and EMC Test Labs, consultant for Hallberg.

When "quality" signal blocking is used, there is no problem with radio interference, Lysiak said. "Put a cheap $5 phone next to that radio station and I guarantee you will get Christian music even when the phone is off."

To provide additional information, Kraus Anderson Construction architects were asked to compare the two sites. Using a point system, they analyzed aspects of the sites include site access, soils, grading needed, building layout, ponding, utilities and constructability. All were evaluated and the Dale Road site had a slight edge.

The cost to buy and develop the Bailey Road site, without the cost of the high school building, ranges from $14 million to $14.5 million, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent of operations.

The development cost of the Dale Road site is $15.2 million to $15.6 million.

District officials and architects told the board at the workshop that a site must be selected at the Nov. 16 board meeting so the deadline to open the school in Sept. 2009 can be met.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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