Lakewood Hospital Demolition Goes 57% Over Budget

As the year ends, Lakewood City Council and the Finance Committee had to balance the books from their 2019 spending and adjust the 2020 appropriations based on updated information. At the final Finance Committee meeting of 2019, there were several substitutions and changes that were discussed. The most significant changes were all involving the demolition and remediation of the former Lakewood Hospital site. Due to unforeseen issues around finding hazardous carcinogenic material (Perchloroethylene aka PCE) and the discovery of a creek bed that was unearthed during demolition, the project will require approximately another $3.7m in funds.

The discovery of PCE added several complications to the process. When workers noticed the faint, sweet smell they notified superiors who immediately got EA Group, Brownfield Restoration Group, and Buckeye Environmental Network involved. They quickly contained the material that had been dormant while the hospital was above it. While there is a sense of urgency around the removal of both solid and liquid waste, the recent rain made the collection more challenging. Additionally, hazardous waste sites will only accept up to twelve, forty ton truckloads a day. The environmental experts cited above are estimating over one thousand tons of material are at this site alone.

“Each passing day we learn more about the contaminants and our ability to address them moving forward,” stated Bryce Sylvester, Lakewood’s Director of Planning & Development. “We’re confident by the middle of January we will be in a place where we can provide a ‘no-action letter’ to Carnegie and finalize the deal.”

“The circumstances of the discovery are unfortunate, but it could have been much worse if it had not been found while the site was wide open with the necessary tools on hand,” stated Mayor Mike Summers. “The site is a Lakewood problem because the chemicals were used by the Lakewood Hospital and by Lakewood employees.”

Councilperson-elect Jason Shachner added, “Standards may have been different in the 50’s when this problem was created, but Lakewood needs to be financially responsible for the clean-up now.” 

In addition to the clean-up costs of the hazardous material, the buildings will now need to be equipped with vapor mitigation systems (which are common in brownfield site redevelopment). According to Sylvester, the project is only about two and a half months behind schedule; and the vapor mitigation system requirement should not deter tenants. They anticipate total completion of the project with tenants to be completed by 2024.

There will also be an additional $600,000 in new sewer infrastructure that will be needed as a result of the discovery of the creek bed. This is unrelated to the hazardous material discovery.

Originally, the city had set aside $7 million for demolition and remediation. While confident they would come in under budget, it allowed the city to have at least $12m remaining from the Lakewood Hospital funds for one time use projects like the purchase of the Cove Church site, updating Fire Station #2, and potentially spending some money to update our aging pools.  With potentially only $8m or less available, Mayor-elect Meghan George feels those funds might be best used in reserves in case there are any additional unforeseen issues.

Brad Presutto

Brad Presutto - Lakewood resident since 2005

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Volume 15, Issue 24, Posted 1:34 PM, 12.18.2019