The Day – Cleaning of former Norwich Hospital property in Preton to resume soon
Preston – Cleanup work at the former Norwich Hospital property is set to resume in the first week of February, with several ‘quick wins’ projects before the final push begins in March, the chairman of the Preston redevelopment agency, Sean Nugent.
The cleanup effort, which must be completed before the city hands over the 393-acre property to Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment for a major redevelopment, came to a halt after environmental assessment teams discovered significant contamination from the coal ash under roads and parking areas in 2019. The cost exceeded the previous one. $10 million state grant, so work basically stopped when that money dried up.
The state legislature and the Bond Commission approved a new $7 million state grant in July 2020, and the city still has a $2 million loan to add to the total. However, further delays followed, as city leaders negotiated with the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development over how the final cleanup should be done.
Nugent recently told the Board of Selectmen that work will begin with “quick wins” projects that include the reduction and demolition of the Pathway Building and the cleanup of a small 7-acre area at the junction of Routes 12 and 2A. Because part of the Pathway building is within 100 feet of a wetland, the PRA needed approval from the city’s Wetlands and Streams Commission before starting work. . Approval was granted unanimously on Tuesday.
The larger plan calls for the creation of a consolidation area in one place to place and cover the contaminated soil. Clean fill from the excavated consolidation area will be used to fill roads and former parking areas where contaminated ash was removed, Nugent said.
Before major work can resume in March, an archaeologist will examine the consolidation area and flag boundaries to avoid any potential sensitive underground archaeological resources, Nugent said. City officials and the city’s environmental contractor, Manafort Bros. Inc., will meet with Mohegan officials at the property to review plans, he said.
MGE has struck a deal with the city to create a $200-600 million development with recreational, entertainment, sports and residential projects on the property, which sits across the River Thames from the Mohegan Sun Casino and near the Mohegan-Pequot Bridge.
Apart from the final environmental cleanup, passers-by could see other work progressing on the part of the former hospital property near the commuter car park on Route 12. Eversource plans to upgrade utility poles and wiring in Preston and region and requested to lease the property from the city to serve as a staging area.
Nugent told the Board of Selectmen the utility would pay $7,500 a month for the first six months, and $6,000 a month thereafter, with an estimated eight-month lag. The agreement will include a provision to vacate the property if the city’s cleanup progresses faster than expected, he said.
Another problem unrelated to cleaning will also need to be solved. One area was damaged by “significant” washout caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida on Sept. 1-2, Nugent said. The cost of the cleanup was estimated at $290,000, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency expected to cover 75% of the expense.
If state officials say the city cannot use the cleanup grant to cover the city’s share of the cost, Nugent said the PRA would seek to use Eversource payments to cover the cost. Any remaining money would be returned to the city, he said.
The part of the former hospital property which is in Norwich, approximately 60 acres, is in private hands and no development plan has been proposed there.