FAIRFIELD — Small excavators tore into the earth as deep as 8 feet, removing dark clay soil polluted for decades with gasoline.
In a twist from the usual soil remediation project, the work happened inside a building.
Solano County is cleaning up the soil beneath 701 Texas St., a vacant, two-story building that once housed the county Hall of Records. It’s doing so while the building is still standing.
This is the eastern gateway to downtown Fairfield. That contaminated soil frustrated a 2005 attempt by the county, the former Fairfield Redevelopment Agency and a developer to create a mixed-use development with offices, shops and homes at the site.
Solano County then planned to knock down the building and clean up the soil. But instead, the county has opted to leave the block-like structure standing for possible future use.
“It gives the county the most options, which is key,” Associate County Architect James Bezek said.
Workers weeks ago tore up most of the concrete slab floor inside the building. They are excavating 605,000 cubic yards of dirt, doing so one section at a time to preserve the building’s structural integrity. Large, loud fans at the entrances to the building keep air circulating.
On a recent day, a small hauler ran back and forth out of the rear of the building, carrying the polluted dirt. It deposited the dirt in a pile across the alley in a county-owned parking lot. From there, polluted soil gets hauled to Potrero Hills Landfill.
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board is overseeing the project and released a report on it.
Workers will bring in cement slurry to reduce potential that hydrocarbon vapors from any remaining pollution can get into the building, the report said. They will put in a venting system that will extend from the new slab floor to the roof of the building.
Then the building will be monitored for a year, Bezek said.
Ultimately, the county will have to decide what to do with a property that anchors the downtown.
“From a foot-traffic perspective, if you’re looking at downtown, that is one of the busiest corners,” Fairfield Main Street Association Executive Director Margaret Manzo said.
Manzo expressed hope that the county will sell the site for retail. All sorts of uses are possible. The site could have a fitness business to serve downtown residents and government employees, she said.
The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board report described the site’s history.
An auto service and tire store that sold gasoline operated on the site from the 1920s or earlier through the mid-1950s. An office building was constructed there in 1955.
Solano County bought the site in 1998 and turned the office into its Hall of Records. The county no longer needed the space after opening the county Government Center across the street in 2005. The old Hall of Records building has been vacant since.
The county removed a 1,000-gallon underground storage tank in November 2008, the water board report said. The tank was located beneath the Jefferson Street sidewalk near the location of the long-gone gasoline dispenser.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.