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Cleaning Up the Past: Crews Convert Landfill Into a Park

Mon February 28, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

On April 5, 2010, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped break ground on a $266 million environmental project to remediate the Brookfield Avenue Landfill in Staten Island, N.Y.

“For far too long, this neighborhood has been blighted by a fenced-off dump with a sordid history,” said Bloomberg. “Today, we take a giant step forward in writing a new, greener chapter, by beginning the process of turning this site into a new park for the community.

Toxic materials — waste oil, heavy metals and industrial chemicals — were illegally dumped at the Brookfield Avenue Landfill in the 1970s when a city employee took bribes to look the other way. The employee has since spent time in prison, and the toxic waste is now being addressed. When the remediation project is completed, the site will be transformed into a picturesque community park with trees, walking paths and viewing areas of the adjacent wetlands.

Environmental Expertise

New York City has engaged Brookfield Construction Associates LLC as contractor for the remediation work, which is scheduled for completion in 2015. Brookfield Construction Associates is a unique consortium of four contractors with long-established expertise in environmental remediation of landfills: D’Annunzio & Sons Inc.; Barbella Construction Services LLC; A. Servidone Inc.; and B. Anthony Construction Corp.

The Brookfield Landfill Remediation Project demands the combined skill sets of all these contractors, as well as keen oversight by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Health and safety are primary concerns of the community during the construction process.

Over the next four years, Brookfield will construct a slurry wall barrier around the landfill, cap the 132-acre (53.4 ha) site with an impermeable liner and install 2.5 million (2.3 million t) tons of enriched soil material. The $241 million remediation portion of the project also includes building an environmentally sensitive leachate collection system, as well as installing a comprehensive methane gas extraction system. Final landscaping, including tree and shrub plantings, will be completed by 2017.

“At the perimeter of the landfill, we are constructing a slurry wall with an average depth of approximately 25 feet to tie into an existing clay layer below the site,” said Mike D’Annunzio, president of D’Annunzio & Sons and primary administrator of Brookfield Construction. “Within the landfill area we will be installing methane gas extraction wells which will be piped to an open flare so the gas can be burned off to the atmosphere. The project also requires the installation of a leachate collection system that gets routed to a water treatment plant on site. Once the gas and leachate systems are installed, and the surface is re-graded with common fill, we will install an impervious, high-density (40-mil) polyethylene liner.

“Once the liner is complete, we are required to place two feet of a specially blended, enriched soil layer that can support the planned landscaping. The process to manufacture this special soil and its quality assurance is the most complicated part of the project, as the specification requirements are extremely difficult to achieve.”

Soil Management

D’Annunzio estimates 2.5 million tons of high-quality blended soil material will be needed. “One of our biggest challenges will be quality assurance on the material,” he says. “There is a very stringent specification for specific mineral content, pH levels and gradation requirements.

“We have to make the product using different soil materials and blending them at precise proportions. The joint venture is fortunate to have Frank Barbella on board as our chief operating partner, as he has successfully performed this type of process in the past. Frank will be overseeing soil procurement and quality assurance since he has worked with this particular soil specification on prior, high profile landfill remediation projects for the NYCDEP — Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue landfills in Brooklyn. He knows what it takes to get the end product just right,” said D’Annunzio.

“We cannot find the soils locally, so a lot of the material has to come from South Jersey,” said Frank Barbella, president of Barbella Construction Services LLC and chief operating partner of Brookfield Construction.

“We have to mix and blend to get the right pH balance. All the plant materials will be grown from seed in the same soil that’s used here, so it’s important we get the pH right.” As part of the restoration work on the landfill, approximately 17,000 trees and shrubs will be planted, as well as 76,000 wetland plantings, part of an effort to preserve and restore 7.3 acres of tidal wetlands and 8.8 acres of freshwater wetlands around the landfill.

Trucking millions of tons of topsoil to the site through a residential neighborhood presents additional challenges. A special permit is needed to allow trucks access to operate on the Korean War Veterans Highway, a passenger vehicle-only roadway that runs directly to the site.

“We built an entrance right into the site from the highway to avoid any local traffic,” said Scott Tankel, senior project manager of Brookfield Construction Associates.

Encircling the landfill are DEP air-quality stations that operate 24/7, monitoring up to 250 dump trucks moving in and out of the landfill each day. If dust from truck traffic gets cited, the whole construction site can be shut down. Two watering trucks continually spray roads inside the site to keep dust down. Before trucks exit back onto the roadways, a specially installed automatic underbody wash ensures that dust and dirt remain inside the landfill and off the highways.

Foley, Inc. and Caterpillar have played an important role in the project. “Brookfield Construction purchased 13 pieces of Caterpillar equipment from Foley for this project,” said D’Annunzio. “Cat gives us the best deal and a guaranteed buyback. We’ve been working with Foley for 29 years, since we’ve been in business. Further, my father had a contracting company for 30 years prior, so our family relationship goes back to the time when Foley was founded. We prefer Cat for the quality of product, the durability, resale value and dealer support.” In addition to the equipment purchases, Foley, Inc. has retrofitted all equipment on site — Cat dozers, wheel loaders, excavators and dirt rollers — with diesel particulate filters (DPF) to further comply with strict DEP air standards.

“We have had a relationship with all of the families and companies in the Brookfield Construction Associates for many years,” says Jeff Merle, Foley vice president of machinery sales. “Each of them brings their own specific skill set to this extremely complicated project. I am very proud and pleased that Foley could play a small part in this.”

Slurry Wall Barrier

The slurry wall barrier is designed to contain the toxic materials within the site and eliminate ex-filtration from the site into the groundwater. When completed, the slurry wall will range from 20 to 39 ft. (6 to 11.9 m) deep, 3 ft. (0.9 m) wide and a couple mi. in length. “It really acts as two slurry walls because it will completely encircle two cells, the East and West landfill cells,” says Barbella. “Right now we’re building a slurry wall platform, or road, to stabilize the excavators. It’s a preventive measure.”

In this low-lying wetland area, Brookfield is strengthening the soil enough to support its equipment.

“We’ll be running 40-ton end dumps to excavate the slurry trenches, and also to haul in the slurry wall backfill mix to put in the trenches,” said Barbella. “So we need a good, solid surface to work from.”

In addition to the Cat equipment purchased by Brookfield Construction, Barbella Construction purchased five Cat 740 off-highway end dumps to help facilitate the project. “Ninety percent of the iron on site is Cat iron,” Barbella said. “Barbella Construction has been working with Foley since 1990, when we started in business. To us, Caterpillar means quality. The equipment lasts, it’s easy to maintain and we get great service from Foley.”

Leachate Collection System

When completed, the slurry wall will effectively seal off the landfill and ground water can be controlled, said Tankel.

“The leachate system will collect any contaminated water that moves through the garbage, and all water will be directed to a permanent treatment system on site.”

Barbella said the leachate trench will be cut very deep because of the low water table, which will require extensive de-watering prior to installation. “It’s a huge undertaking,” he said. “But also something that we do everyday. The lessons we’ve learned at other landfills have put us all in a better position to be successful here.”

“We’ve garnered a great deal of expertise with landfills,” says Mark Servidone, president of A. Servidone, Inc. “Our company, alone, has either built or closed more than 30 landfills in New York and New Jersey over the past 20 years, so we have a rather large portfolio of cell and cap construction projects throughout the two states.” Bob Cavaliere, president of B. Anthony Construction Corp., adds that his company, along with A. Servidone and Barbella Construction, just completed an $80 million landfill project for the Middlesex County Utility Authority in New Jersey. “That was a landfill cell on top of an older landfill cell,” says Cavaliere. “It was the first ’piggyback’ remediation project ever in the state.” Barbella speaks for the four principals as he concludes:

“Our four companies are great partners. Together we bring significant resources and knowledge to this project, ensuring it’ll get done right.” Meaning a once-shunned toxic dump soon will be transformed into a beautiful public space thanks to the specialized expertise and enterprise of Brookfield Construction Associates, as well as the dedicated service and hard-working Caterpillar equipment provided by Foley, Inc.

This story was reprinted with permission from Paydirt Magazine, Fa11 2010 issue.lstanley

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