Former GE site could become school

Bridgeport (AP) - Bridgeport officials said a former manufacturing site containing arsenic, lead and petroleum-based pollutants could be an acceptable site for a new school.

The Hearst Connecticut Media Group reports that the site was used for decades by General Electric Co., which manufactured small motors and various electrical devices. Earlier, Remington Arms made rifles on the property.

The city is now considering the site for a new Harding High School.

Amanda Killeen, an environmental analyst at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said at first glance, one could question building on a former industrial site. But officials encourage reuse of property as long as cleanup work is done well.

"Knowing up front is 100 percent better," said Robert Bell, assistant director of the remediation division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

City Council member Lydia Martinez is not entirely convinced that the property will be safe.

"All of us are wary," she said "We know what was going on on that site."

Many sites across the country that were contaminated have been cleaned up and put back to use, said Jay Pendergrass, co-director of the Brownfields Center and Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.

"It comes up a fair amount, Pendergrass said. "It probably is not even uncommon."

The city is still negotiating the details of an agreement with GE, which would give it, at no cost, between 14 and 17 acres to build a four-story high school with athletic fields. The remaining 60 or so acres, including a pond, will remain unremediated and undeveloped for a while.

Fencing will separate the school from the brownfield. Some are concerned that the fence will not hold back contaminants, which they worry could become water- or airborne.

The property has been extensively investigated, Killeen said.

"There is a good deal of information of what is in the ground," she said.

The investigation is "textbook former industrial site stuff," she said.

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