The contaminated site was chosen for a fire station because it was unfit for residential use.
By Todd Jackson
The Roanoke Times
The site for a new downtown Roanoke fire station is a contaminated "brown field," so that's a perfect reason why it's a great location for the public use, city officials said Monday.
The city council unanimously approved an agreement between Roanoke and the state Department of Environmental Quality that cleans up the site and places limits on its use. The city, in developing the site at the northeast corner of Elm Avenue and Franklin Road, discovered a buried fuel tank that dates to a former gas station on the site. The soils at 301 Elm Ave. S.W. were also tested and found to contain solvents and chemicals from a former dry cleaning establishment there, City Manager Darlene Burcham said.
So the city, as it often does in urban redevelopment projects, entered into a voluntary program with the state to prepare the site. It also agreed that the property will be used for an accepted public or commercial purpose - and not for residential development or a day care center. State and federal law provides for certain uses on so-called "brown field" sites while prohibiting uses that could pose a greater potential long-term health hazard.
Burcham and City Councilman Rupert Cutler said the Franklin/Elm location is ideal for the $4.5 million fire station because it takes a vacant piece of contaminated land and gives it a positive public purpose.
"It's a very appropriate use of this site," Cutler said.
The council's decision Monday was another step toward the implementation of a Fire-EMS master plan - years in the works - in which several new stations would be built while several older ones are closed, including the historic downtown Station No. 1. The building at 13 E. Church Ave. S.E. is believed to be the oldest working fire station in Virginia.
One city councilman is now openly opposing the Franklin/Elm site, partly because of the proposed closing of Station No. 1. Brian Wishneff said he voted with the rest of his council colleagues Monday on the environmental agreement because too much time and effort has been expended on the new station to this point.
However, Wishneff said he's not sold on the details of the master plan, predominately the closing of Station No. 1. Wishneff is a consultant who specializes in historic tax credit projects, and he's been a prominent part of preservation efforts, notably his public fight to save Victory Stadium. Wishneff said Monday that the Franklin/Elm site is a terrible place for a fire station because it's a prominent location at a major intersection that should be marketed for private development.
Wishneff, who's been on the council for one year, said he wants to hear the city administration outline its reasoning for the Fire-EMS plan, particularly the closing of Fire Station No. 1. He also said he'd like the administration to poll the historic station's employees to gather their feedback on the issue.
Firefighters Association President Rodney Jordan has also questioned whether the station should be closed.
Check out www.roanokefirefighters.blogspot.com for further information on the closing of Station #1.
If you would like to help us and petition the City Council here are the email address's. Thanks
These are my comments
"In an article in the Roanoke Times today Todd Jackson writes about the contaminated site that was chose for a fire station because it was unfit for residential use. I have news for the City Council, citizens involved, and everyone else : Firefighters live at the fire station. I think that sums up the building actually being residential. How would you feel if you were made to live under these conditions that City Manager, City Council, and the State Department of Environmental Quality say is a contaminated "brown field" that has a buried fuel tank from a former gas station and also contains solvents and chemicals from a past dry cleaning business. I know that this is not to appealing to me, and for the next 19 years I will spend a third of my life in a fire house. That is right, firefighters spend a third of their life at the fire house. We work 56 hours a week, 52 weeks a year = 2912 hours a year or 1/3 of the year 24 hours at a time. That is residential I don't care how you look at it. So how can the City Officials let this be? Well it seems as though they do not put very much stock in their loyal public servants. It seems as though they will close down station #1 and continue with the consolidation plan at any expense. Will it effect the firefighters? Who knows? I for one certainly do not want to find out 20 years from now that working at that station improved my chances of getting cancer. As you know firefighters are already at an increased threat of getting most common cancers. So this is GREAT news.
"So the city, as it often does in urban redevelopment projects, entered into a voluntary program with the state to prepare the site. It also agreed that the property will be used for an accepted public or commercial purpose - and not for residential development or a day care center. State and federal law provides for certain uses on so-called "brown field" sites while prohibiting uses that could pose a greater potential long-term health hazard."
-Todd Jackson "Tainted lot good for new station" Roanoke Times, Virginia Section Tuesday, July 19, 2005.
This makes me sick, to find out this is really what Officials think of the brave men and women(firefighters) who serve the citizens and visitors of Roanoke City and are willing to risk life and limb on their behalf.
And yes Brian Wishneff I think that the administration to poll the historic station's employees to gather their feedback on the issue.(relating to closing down station #1)
Maybe they should invest some money in getting proper exhaust fans in the station bays. I work at a station that has no exhaust fans at all. That means when we pull out of the station all of that diesel exhaust fills the station, then when we get back we get to live in it and breathe in it. So what is being done to combat that problem? Some stations have the equivalent of an attic fan or a box fan put in a window. Let me tell you, that really gets the job done.
It just goes to show you how the firefighters, who work for the #1 department in the city (voted on by the citizens), are being treated. It really makes you want to strive to be a better employee. Yet another step by the city that breeds mediocrity."
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Thread: Tainted lot good for new station
07-19-2005, 10:45 AM #1
"Tainted lot good for new station" You have to read this!!
07-19-2005, 10:56 AM #2
I think using this site for a firehouse is a GREAT idea. Sounds like this site is a former gas station and had leaky underground tanks like the all do. It will be cleaned up prior to being built upon, however, they cannot get the property clean enough for residential use because kids may play in the yard and grass, something I hope the firefighters of Roanoke aren't doing. This is a good idea for 2 reasons.
1= You are utilizing a "contaminated" property rather than letting it be an eyesore
2= The town can probably purchase it cheap and displace noone in the process costing far less than condemnation.
As far as not having adequate ventialation systems in your houses that is a totally different subject which deffinetly should be looked into.Piscataway Fire Dist #2
07-19-2005, 11:02 AM #3
Not so GREAT
If it's not clean enough to build a house on, it's NOT clean enough to build a fireHOUSE on it either. Firefighters are exposed to enough crap as it is.IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
07-19-2005, 11:05 AM #4
FFTide you just don't get it. It is an empty lot right now. They (City Manager and Department of environmental Quality) have stated that the site is unsafe for Residential purpose. Maybe you don't live at your firehouse when you are at work, but we do. And we demand better conditions than that.
I couldn't agree more Mikeylikesit!
07-19-2005, 11:17 AM #5
If it's unfit for residential it is most definitely unfit for a career fire station since last I checked.... each shift RESIDES there. No need to expose these guys to additional hazards when they aren't even working a job. Typical govt. trying to save a buck.
There is so much brown field redevelopment going on these days and it is great to see, I like golf courses on landfills, etc. but there has got to be a better use. Like may a ball field or something that people only visit on occassion not a firestation where guys work, eat, sleep and drink.
07-19-2005, 11:30 AM #6
Felitz I DO get it. It's part of my job, and I know you are going to disagree but that's your right. It's hard to convince anyone to live atop an old used commercial/industrial site. But as these sites become more numerous and cities that need the land to develop are going to turn to cleaning up these sites for redevelopment. It makes environmental and economic sense.
Let me ask you Felitz, would you buy a home on this site even if it weren't a gas station prior and contamination isn't an issue? I'm assuming not since gas stations are usually located in commercial areas or on busy street corners.
There is something called a "letter of No Further Action" (NFA) which your state environmental assoc. will give to the site when it is cleaned up "enough". The reason this site cannot be used for residential use as I stated before is the fact that many people utilize their lawns and the tolerance level to get a NFA for residential use is so strict it costs way too much to clean up the site to residential standards which is less than trace amounts of everything (I bet your current lawn at home is dirtier polluted than this site will be when it is cleaned up). However, for a firehouse which is going to have much more pavement than lawn (a process known as capping), and more specifically a lawn that shuoldn't be utilized as it would be if it were residential the upper limits of allowable contamination (which is still extremly below any level that can hurt you, that's how crazy low these threshholds are) a firehouse (live in or not) is a pretty good re-use of the site.
I'm trying to dig up some good links and information for you, but as far as I can professionally tell you, you have nothing to worry about with this site and possible health affects to you and your crew.
Last edited by FFTide; 07-19-2005 at 11:33 AM.Piscataway Fire Dist #2
07-19-2005, 11:38 AM #7
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the fire station we are operating out of (Station #1) which they want to close down. They want to close #3 also, which is in disrepair because the city neglected it in order to sell the whole consolidation idea. They will also move administration into the new building.
So it is a two part arguement
1)the contaminated lot.
2)there is no need for a new station.
They are planning on consolidating 2 other stations also. So there is a lot going on here.
07-19-2005, 11:58 AM #8
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
The site for a new downtown Roanoke fire station is a contaminated "brown field," so that's a perfect reason why it's a great location for the public use, city officials said Monday
07-19-2005, 12:33 PM #9
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad idea.
Just so there's no misunderstanding, the point about a career fire house strongly resembling a residental use is very accurate and should be a good enough reason to reconsider the idea.
From a city management prospective, there's another. The odds are good FFTide is right and there will be absolutely no problem BUT everyone knows it is a location deemed unfit for residental use. Five, Ten, Fifteen years down the road the city faces the potential of fighting one suit after another brought by people that have worked at the station and now suffer some illness. It just isn't worth the risk.
For that matter, if the land were sold for some type of development and the buyers were informed up front of the site's history then they could make an informed decision about taking on any real or perceived risk. Firefighters assigned to that station won't have the same opportunity.
07-19-2005, 12:37 PM #10
Contaminated doesn't mean just build upon it. There are strict rules to follow with removing any contamination and replacing (in this case) the soil with clean fill. When the 'remediation' is complete the site will be as 'clean' as your's at home. If government and developers never used 'brownfield' 'contaminated' sites what would your downtowns look like today? I know the town I work in would look like crap, but instead the gov't and developers are cleaning up the sites and building new developments such as hotels, dorms, and civic uses.
~JeffPiscataway Fire Dist #2
07-19-2005, 12:45 PM #11
Having an environmental science and chemistry degrees as well as having been involved in some environmental remediation projects, I can say that the contaminant levels that the site must be remediated to are often below that of background levels. This may not be the case with the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the gas station and the organics from the dry cleaning business, due to them not being naturally present in the soil. But in my experience the levels will be low enough that unless you ate the soil left on the site after clean up you would have no ill effects.
I currently work on a site where some contamination was found, they cannot fill the remediated areas with dirt because there isnt any dirt that is "clean" enough to be considered clean fill. That is to say that the background levels for the particular "contaminant" are above the allowable levels.
Just some things to think about.Shawn M. Cecula
IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS
07-19-2005, 01:44 PM #12
There may also be a little difference in a residential home having a grass lawn and a firehouse that may possibly take up the whole area with cement/concrete/pavement."This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?
07-19-2005, 02:39 PM #13
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
While I am in favor of cleaning up the environment, a house is a house. People will be living in this firehouse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if it is covered in concrete, presumably, the whole site would not be covered. Perhaps, Shawn could answer this question as it is beyond my knowledge. Do any of these chemicals that are in the ground emit any gases (CO2, N0, etc) that could potentially still be present even if the ground is partially covered?
FireFletiz, if Station 1 is a historial building, why can't the money be spent instead to restore it if need be. What are they going to do with the land where Station 1 is now if they build a new one?
07-19-2005, 02:56 PM #14
- Join Date
- Jul 2000
- Orlando, Florida
Fight for Station # 1 to remain open! Even the squirrels don't want to be locked-out!
As for the new location and issues with the land....no way!
Good Luck Bro!
07-19-2005, 04:09 PM #15
BTW, I am not taking sides on the Station 1 issue, just attempting to clarify some misconceptions regarding brownfields cleanups.
Here is the EPA page on Brownfields : http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/basic_info.htm
In my experience if the site were remediated the presence of gases as you describe them cheffie would be nonexistant. "Capping" the site with concrete/blacktop/a fire house would prevent any volatiles present from permeating through the "cap", a problem arrises when there are holes in the concrete as would be created to provide sewer lines, floor drains, and other utility connections.
If memory serves, brownfields are a relatively low level of contamination and includes:
"`(II)(aa) is contaminated by petroleum or a petroleum product excluded from the definition of `hazardous substance' under section 101; and
`(bb) is a site determined by the Administrator or the State, as appropriate, to be--
`(AA) of relatively low risk, as compared with other petroleum-only sites in the State; and
`(BB) a site for which there is no viable responsible party and which will be assessed, investigated, or cleaned up by a person that is not potentially liable for cleaning up the site; and
`(cc) is not subject to any order issued under section 9003(h) of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6991b(h)); or
`(III) is mine-scarred land.'."
Now I wouldnt go so far to say that the site in question is mine scarred, but thought it interesting that it is mentioned in the legal definition of a Brownfields site.Shawn M. Cecula
IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS
07-19-2005, 04:23 PM #16
Keep Station #1 Open
Yes Fire Station #1 is a registered Historical Landmark and the oldest Paid (not sure of volly stations) Fire Station still in operation in Virginia. I have not been able to find any older. The station is not in disrepair. The station is rich in history and tradition and I do not think the public knows enough of what is going on.
07-19-2005, 04:59 PM #17
I have actually heard that the city counsel also thought this would be a good idea because it would enhance saftey. Yes, now the equipment and personnel will glow during nightime runs, reducing the chances of night time accidents due to low visibility.
Quote by FFTide: It will be cleaned up prior to being built upon, however, they cannot get the property clean enough for residential use because kids may play in the yard and grass, something I hope the firefighters of Roanoke aren't doing.
Exactly what is that you hope the firefighters of Roanoke are not doing here? You have a problem with the guys being out in the yard?
We cut our yard, and play in the yard. Sometimes with our own kids, sometimes just with each other. Catch, frisby, wiffleball, jogging, whatever. Whats the problem?Robert Kramer
Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.
"Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.
Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.
07-19-2005, 05:20 PM #18
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
Thanks for the "Brownfields 101" Shawn.
If it is a registered as a historial landmark, they cannot tear it down so maybe there is some hidden agenda as to why they want to spend money to build a new station when you have a great station now. Another question, where is this proposed site in relation to the district that Station 1 now covers? I saw that they want to clsoe several stations. Does this mean they want one more centrally located station (which will increase your response times) as opposed to keeping several smaller stations throughout the district?
Also,perhaps you should get the Historical Society in on the action. Take your case to the public. It will be their tax dollars that are building the new one. Let them know how it will affect them.
07-19-2005, 05:29 PM #19
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.
Fireflietz, I hope you guys will be able to sort this out. I agree with your initial statements about "brown soil" and health concerns. It just AIN'T RIGHT, but of course that more than likely what you folks will be forced into, being City Hall and all.
Keep fighting the "Good Fight".If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)
"I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD
"Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)
Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!
impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto
IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.
07-19-2005, 05:29 PM #20
Hey, no problem...
Just use DHS money to purchase WMD gear (HAZMAT CBRNE) and wear it at all times.
Sleep in it, etc...
Problem solved, everybody happy!-Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
-Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.
-Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.
-Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.
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