Columbia residents may have to put up with the smell of oil coming from what will eventually be an extension of Flat Branch Park for a while longer.
Removing contaminated soil to the south of the existing park was supposed to be finished by now, but because workers continue to find new pockets of dirt contaminated with oil, it may be the second week of March before work is completed. The cleanup began in January and was expected to be done by mid-February.
Park Services Manager Mike Griggs told the Parks and Recreation Commission last week that cleanup at the site, located along Flat Branch Creek between Locust and Elm Streets, will require 1½ times more work than previously predicted. The additional work will add $40,000 to $50,000 to the project’s budget, Griggs said.
Griggs predicted the entire cleanup will cost $275,000 to $300,000, meaning the $200,000 the city received from an Environmental Protection Agency grant and $40,000 from the Parks Department budget will not be enough.
In order to meet the additional costs, money is now being taken out of the development fund for the second phase of the park. However, Griggs doesn’t think this will have a detrimental effect on the future park.
“We have $898,789 total for both the cleanup and development ... and a contingency amount of approximately $70,000,” Griggs said.
He said he believes the department can save money by adjusting its plans to install several concrete retaining walls near the bridges by Locust and Elm streets. By using boulders instead, the department could trim its costs and make something that would be more aesthetically pleasing, Griggs said.
Park Development Superintendent Steve Saitta said he isn’t surprised workers found more contaminated soil at the site.
“It’s very difficult until you actually start digging to know how much you will find,” Saitta said. He said the lack of rain recently has helped the cleanup effort. With any luck, he said, it will be completed in three weeks.
“Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where we won’t find any more contamination,” Griggs said. Until then, the smell of oil will continue to waft through the Flat Branch Park area.