Mount Airy officials are awaiting the results of recent, rigorous on-site testing at the city-owned Spencer’s industrial property to pinpoint any environmental hurdles that could hamper its redevelopment.
Although the main focus was the removal of two underground petroleum storage tanks — one a 20,000-gallon tank and the other a 4,000-gallon container — this month’s excavation was much more extensive than it might have appeared on the surface. It involved a number of specialists and meticulous work that one might expect to see at a major archaeological dig.
“Frankly, I thought it would be a lot simpler,” city Community Development Director Martin Collins said of the efforts aimed at giving the Spencer’s site a clean bill of health environmentally so revitalization can proceed there.
Collins said the environmental work has been possible with the help of about $60,000 in grant funds the city accessed through the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, an organization to which Mount Airy belongs.
The operation involved not only the removal of the underground tanks, but soil samples being taken from 59 areas of the property at depths ranging from 1 foot to 15 feet. Even before any digging occurred, an entity known as Sweetwater Utility Exploration used ground-penetrating radar and other locating devices to mark underground pipes, storm drains and tanks, to avoid damage to existing infrastructure.
This paved the way for APEX, an environmental-assessment consultant for the city, to arrive at Spencer’s with specialized subcontractors.
These included Ammons Resource Group, a underground storage tank-removal specialist; Zebra Environmental and Industrial Services, which collects and disposes of liquids, sludge and solids from tanks before they are removed, to avoid contamination or other problems from such contents; and Carolina Soil Investigations, which bored and collects soil samples and bored small-diameter water-monitoring wells.
Seven temporary wells were installed to take water samples, Collins said, adding that nothing was found to indicate a spill.
Meanwhile, the soil sampling included specimens being taken from numerous areas in parking lots at the Spencer’s property and from under the floors of the Reynolds building and Sparger building complexes there.
Both storage tanks were cleaned and removed under the watchful eyes of a state underground storage tank inspector and the city fire marshal.
Both tanks were in good condition, one that held heating oil and the other gasoline, with soil samples taken from the tank pits for analysis as required by permitting rules.
The soil and water samples will undergo rigorous analysis over the coming weeks and the city is to receive a report in November detailing the findings.
“In about two months, we’ll know if there are any issues, but we don’t think so,” Collins said of the environmental health of the property and its prospects for new uses.
“Any potential developer will have a pretty good idea of anything that might affect their redevelopment of the property,” he said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693.