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July 27, 2001: Business First


Environmental issues had a crucial impact on Louisville-area construction projects even before last year's General Assembly passed the Voluntary Environmental Remediation Act (VERA). That act made Kentucky one of 45 states with voluntary brownfield redevelopment programs.

In May 2000, the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection identified at least four Louisville-area projects as examples of successful brownfield projects.

The University of Louisville Papa John's Cardinal Stadium probably is the most well known example. Other notable projects include Louisville Slugger Field, the runway expansion at Louisville International Airport and numerous road and highway projects in the area.

While the passage of VERA and these high-profile public projects have brought attention to brownfield projects recently, the concept of recycling or re-using property is not new in Louisville. Many sites, particularly in the downtown area, are in their second, third or fourth generation of construction.

The Aegon Center (formerly Capital Holdings Center) is a good example. Several three- to seven-story buildings, circa the 1920s, were demolished to make room for Kentucky's tallest building.

Asbestos abatement and some underground storage tank removals were necessary. During construction, several old cisterns, dry wells and foundation systems were discovered. (These were documented on the Atlas of the City of Louisville, 1876.)

The effects of these projects can be subtle -- or glaring.

Architectural designs have specified certification for asbestos-free building components in new construction for more than a decade. No demolition, remodeling or retrofitting project can begin in Louisville without an asbestos survey and abatement of any asbestos-containing materials that will be affected by new construction.

Many local projects also have an excess of soil -- typically because of a basement excavation -- or a need to import soil fill. And it's becoming more common to find contracts that require earthwork contractors to certify that all fill materials brought to a site are "free of contaminants, hazardous materials or hazardous waste."

Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, for example, required importing more than 50,000 cubic yards of fill materials. A soil-testing program was established to evaluate the environmental condition of all fill soils brought to the site.

Similarly, when soil is being disposed off a site, the receivers of the soil often require that it be tested or "profiled" before they accept it.

Earth-moving operations have the greatest potential for environmental impact because they may encounter underground storage tanks (UST), old septic systems, contaminated soils and ground water. Many earthwork contractors in Louisville are certified UST removal contractors or have a contractor available to them.

Brownfield concepts, such as plans for managing contaminated soils on site, increasingly are the norm in both local public and private-sector projects.

And the use of contaminated soils on site can have some design impact. Clean soil and "hard cap" (floor slabs, pavement structures, sidewalks, etc.) are used as separation barriers between contaminated soil and the facility users.

Luckett & Farley Architects, Engineers and Construction Managers Inc., the architects of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, included a design criterion of four feet of clean soil in all grassed areas.

This provided the facility user greater flexibility in their use of the green areas for planting of trees, bushes or flowers without risking contact with underlying contaminants.

This concept now is being used at other Louisville facilities including the Central Avenue extension and the runway extension at Louisville International Airport. A map delineating areas of soil remediation, depth of soil cover and type of constituents was developed as part of implementing the soils management plan at Louisville International Airport.

The Central Avenue extension included treatment of some soil followed by a roadway cap that allows some plantings.

Many local contractors, and in particular union contractors, have provided the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training courses to their employees to offer a basic understanding of their exposure risk.

Site-specific training, commonly called "awareness training," is used on earthwork and remodeling projects to inform the workers of site conditions and train them to identify site hazards. This concept of a site-specific environmental health-and-safety plan to augment the contractor's typical site safety plan also is becoming more common in Louisville.

As the Louisville area sees continued redevelopment, environmental issues will continue to have a major impact on area construction and design projects. Continued cooperation between the public and private sectors will ensure that these concerns are properly mitigated.

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