Support local journalism

Help support reporting that brings important issues to light. By subscribing, you can help us continue to serve the area and keep local journalism thriving. Local news matters.

Subscribe today for as little as $9.95/month.

JANESVILLE

The city is looking to modify its plans for Monterey lagoon restoration after cutting ties with a contractor who had raised concerns about the quality and contamination of lagoon soil.

The city ended its contract with Drax of Madison on Sept. 4. Drax President Andrew Langum told the city his company would not continue with plans to use soil from the lagoon to build a peninsula. The city in a letter called that a “breach of the contract.”

The soil was exposed after the Monterey Dam was removed and the lagoon drained in summer 2018. Langum told The Gazette his company wanted to continue running tests on the soil so the city could make an educated decision on how to handle lagoon restoration.

Drax earlier this year hired Soils and Engineering Services of Madison to run tests on soil from the lagoon and found it was contaminated with “a significant amount of toxins and a list of heavy metals,” according to a July report shared with the city.

The city’s plan had been to pile the contaminated soil from the lagoon into a peninsula and cover it with several inches of clean soil. On a city diagram of the peninsula, it is labeled as “lawn & picnic area.”

Langum, who said he is trained under state and federal standards for handling heavy metal contaminants, said he would not allow his young grandchildren near the contaminated soil because exposure could inhibit child development.

Janesville Public Works Director Paul Woodard said the contamination is at low levels, but people should avoid direct contact with the soil.

In addition to being contaminated, the composition of the soil is unsuitable for the city’s plans for creating a peninsula, according to the study.

In a Sept. 4 letter to Langum, Woodard said there was no reason for Drax to perform additional soil tests and forbade the company from doing so.

Bjoin Limestone of Janesville was hired to take over part of the restoration contract, including removal of the concrete wall along the river and restoration of the shore to a more natural state, a job Drax had been slated to do, said Christopher Bjoin.

Bjoin has a contract with the city for other stormwater projects, and the city added the concrete removal to the existing contract, Woodard said.

Work on concrete removal began Tuesday, Bjoin said.

Costs for Bjoin to do concrete removal are comparable to what the city would have paid Drax, Woodard said.

No contractor has been hired to work on the lagoon, Woodard said.

190912_MONTEREY02

An excavator breaks up concrete along the Rock River near Monterey Park on Wednesday.

Contamination

In an Aug. 12 letter to Woodard, Langum said the city did not provide Drax information on contaminants prior to Drax bidding on the project in 2018.

Drax’s team is not licensed or insured to work with contaminated soils, according to the letter. If Drax had known of the contaminants, it would not have submitted a bid.

Woodard in a Sept. 4 letter said Drax was “fully aware” of all contaminated materials when the lagoon project was incorporated into the contract.

It is the bidders’ responsibility to evaluate sites and gather site information before bidding. The city would have given Drax information on contamination during bidding if it had asked, Woodard said.

Drax was given the city’s data regarding contamination and was given the state Department of Natural Resources permit for the handling and capping of the material, according to Woodard’s letter.

The DNR required the city cap the contaminated soil with at least 6 inches of fresh soil, Woodard said.

Muck

The soil in the lagoon is classified as topsoil, according to the 2019 soil study.

A 2015 study by Inter-Fluve of Madison labeled the material “organic muck.”

Duane Reichel of Soils and Engineering Services in a July 23 meeting with Drax and city staff told the city, based on the study, a peninsula made of soil from the lagoon would not hold its shape.

A structure such as a peninsula or levy should be made of a combination of clay, sand and gravel, according to a July letter to the city from Drax. The lagoon soil does not contain clay, sand and gravel.

According to meeting minutes, Reichel said the material in the bay is not suitable for the project. The soil takes on liquid properties when exposed to water.

Representatives from the city disagreed with Drax that additional testing was needed before beginning work on the lagoon, according to the minutes.

If Drax tried to build a peninsula from lagoon soil, it likely would collapse and send contaminated water down the river, according to the minutes.

Langum said he did not want him and his company to be liable for further polluting the Rock River and exposing employees and residents to contaminated materials.

190912_MONTEREY04

An overhead view of the soil in the lagoon near Monterey Park in Janesville.

What now?

Langum said Drax still is open to cooperate and collaborate with the city, but the two entities no longer have a relationship.

Drax is not considering legal action over the situation, Langum said.

City Engineer Tim Whittaker said in an email to The Gazette the city will pursue additional soil testing.

Woodard said the city intends to stick to its plans permitted by the DNR to create the peninsula, but the plan probably will need to be modified.

“That is what we are looking at, different options to create what we promised residents we would do,” Woodard said.

190912_MONTEREY05

Excavators used for breaking up concrete are parked near the Monterey lagoon in Janesville.

0
4
4
1
13