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City Hall slowed by fuel leak

City officials are waiting on results from soil tests to see how an old fuel spill could affect the renovations being done on City Hall.
Crews discovered the spill last week while doing excavation work on the property, located at 114 W. Sycamore St. downtown.
It’s believed to have come from an old diesel tank that had been located in the building, City Manager Jeff Emory said.
While he’s not sure when the tank was removed, Emory said it hadn’t been used in at least 20 years.
Work on the $4.2 million expansion to City Hall and the Lincolnton Fire Department headquarters hasn’t stopped, Emory said, but the schedule was altered after the contamination was found.
Emory said crews are still doing work on the inside of the building.
While city officials are taking the contamination seriously, Emory said the detection of the fuel did not come as a shock.
“This is not at all uncommon for a site that has had a previously buried fuel tank,” he said, adding that the fuel was found in a relatively small section of the ground.
“It’s not real surprising that we found it once we started digging.”
The affected soil was found more than 30 feet below ground.
Officials won’t know the long-term effects of the spill until results from the additional testing are returned.
Emory said the city is in the process of developing a plan to remove the contaminated soil and having more dirt brought in to the site.
Before construction began soil borings were done to test how compact the dirt was, Emory said, but no tests were run to find possible fuel leaks.
Those tests are uncustomary and expensive, and given the depth of the leak, it’s not likely the fuel would have been found even if tests were run, he said.
“That’s just not something you’d ordinarily do,” he said.
Some time has been lost on the project, which was scheduled for completion by early 2005. It’s possible the city may still meet that goal, Emory said.
“We’re working hard to come up with a plan to have the soil issue resolved,” Emory said.
This is the second delay the expansion has seen.
In December, the City Council, citing a legal issue, decided not to award bids for the project. A month later Southside Companies of Gastonia won the contract with a $3.6 million bid for construction.
City Hall and the Fire Department headquarters were built in the 1960s. The expansion will merge the two buildings together and give employees 30,000-square-feet of space.
City employees are currently working out of a temporary location at 236 E. Main St. Firefighters are housed in temporary structures behind their station.by Alice Smith

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