pollutted soil 1_21_14

A worker dumps polluted soil, taken from underneath a building at 701 Texas St. in downtown Fairfield Tuesday. Workers were cleaning out soil polluted with decades-old gasoline from the site. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Local Business

County cleans up key downtown site

By From page B7 | January 26, 2014

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 [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Discussion | 3 comments

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  • The MisterJanuary 26, 2014 - 7:44 am

    I guess gas was so cheap back then that a little bit here and there spilling onto the ground didn't really matter. Ahhh, those were the days.

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  • my2centsJanuary 26, 2014 - 8:20 am

    That building being undeveloped is a blight on the downtown scene because it is on such a prominent corner. Apparently the fighting is finally over about who was responsible for addressing the toxic cleanup. It is sad how long it took. I can't wait to see what is done with it. Unfortunately it is across the street from Starbucks. Any new occupant will have to deal with the collection of derelicts who have literally taken over the most important corner downtown.

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  • AnnonymousJanuary 26, 2014 - 8:47 am

    Fixing up central Fairfield is important to the city's core economic vitality.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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