Mar 22

Fonda buildings become history

Written By: Michelle Monroe

ST. ALBANS CITY — The buildings at former Fonda paper products plant site have been taken down and now meticulous cleanup work will begin, according to St. Albans City Director of Planning Chip Sawyer.  “It’s coming along really well,” said Sawyer of the demolition that’s taking place on Lower Newton Street.

Only a small structure, outfitted with hoppers remained at the site this morning and those soon will be taken down with a crane. Materials from that portion of the complex will then undergo asbestos abatement and any recyclable metal will be reclaimed.  Thus far, 1,160 tons of general debris have been removed from the site along with 65 tons of mildly contaminated debris, Sawyer reported this morning.

There are a couple of areas within the former factory where there is a high level of PCBs – a class of chemicals which have been linked to cancer – and those areas will be sealed off and permanently fenced, explained Sawyer.  Currently, the pieces of the buildings are still being sorted through and cleaned. Recyclable materials are being gathered and recycled as part of that process, as well.

About a month of work remains, said Sawyer today. The basement will be filled in and all of the cleaning areas and materials will need to be dismantled and cleaned.  As part of the demolition, steps have been taken to insure water does not leave the site and stormwater is being treated on site before being sent to the wastewater treatment facility.  Funds for the demolition project have come from the State of Vermont and the Northwest Regional Planning brownfield’s loan program. Total cost of the demolition, which began on Sept. 15, is roughly $900,000.

The paper products factory was built in 1942 and was acquired by Fonda in 1980. In 2002, about 245 people were employed at the plant, which was sold to Solo in 2004. A year later Solo announced its intention to close the factory, and the doors were shut for good in 2006. When Solo announced the closing there were 168 employees. In some local families multiple generations have been employed at the plant.  The site, which straddles the town-city divide, is now owned by the city.

The future of the site is still undecided, but a feasibility study for a co-generation facility found that a facility generating 10 megawatts of electricity along with steam heat — fueled by wood chips — would be able to pay for itself in approximately seven years. The city is investigating the possibility of a private company building such a facility at the Fonda site.

Clock ticks for Fonda building

Written By: Leon Thompson, St. Albans Messenger

Demolition bids’ deadline Tuesday

The Fonda Solo Building will be demolished this summer.

ST. ALBANS CITY, VT –– Crews responsible for demolition of the vacant Fonda/Solo plant on Lower Newton Street could be mobilized and ready by May 1, according to one of the city’s development leaders.  Contractors’ bids to raze one of the largest enclosed spaces in the city, are due at City Hall Tuesday. Jim Tischler, planning and development director, told aldermen during their regular meeting last week that he hopes to have a contractor’s bid to them by the second week of April.
The city has secured all funding necessary for the $600,000 demolition project, including two grants totaling $400,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and $200,000 from a state brownfields program.
The city purchased the 120,500-square-foot building on a 4.5-acre parcel in 2007 for $300,000.  Toward the end of 2010, the state approved a phased-in mitigation plan to clean the contaminated site, once used to manufacture paper products. The first phase calls for demolition of the two buildings and to keep the area protected until the city has a development project in place.  “It was the administration’s position that the best way to show the community that the project needs to move forward is to proceed with the use of that grant money and get the buildings demolished,” Tischler told the city council last week.

The Fonda / Solo brand lives on, with headquarters in Illinois and manufacturing worldwide.

Two weeks ago, about 65 people – more than has graced the inside of the plant for years – went on a walk-through of the site for potential bidders.  Tischler said the city has already received 24 sets of plans from bidders all over New England and the Midwest.  Ward 5 Alderman Joe Luneau wondered $600,000 was adequate. Tischler said demolition could come in under bid. Project specifications also require the city to recycle some materials at the site.  During demolition, workers will fence off the area and post signs that warn of contamination in the area. Contaminated areas will be covered with gravel for protection.  The winning contractor will provide flaggers for traffic control and also remove debris without going through neighborhoods, Tischler said.
Last November, the city council unanimously chose Weston and Sampson, a Peabody, Mass., environmental consulting firm, to oversee razing of the Fonda/Solo plant. Weston and Sampson also facilitated the bidding process for demolition.  During the demolition process, the city has been working with three EPA officials, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Northwest Regional Planning Commission.  The city had wanted to raze the building by the end of 2010, but delays bumped that goal to this July, the end of the current fiscal year.  The city has a redevelopment concept in mind for the site, with several contenders interested in it, but city officials have been reticent in releasing any details.
The Solo Cup Company, which purchased the paper products manufacturing plant from Fonda, closed the facility in 2005 and laid-off 168 employees.  The proposed remediation would occur at the surface level, with sub-grade remediation (soil clean-up) occurring once a new business has committed to the site, so that remediation and construction can happen simultaneously.  Brownfields testing in 2008 revealed contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), trichloroethene (TCE), and some metals were in concentrations above regulatory limits.
In the 1960s and 1970s Fonda was a leading U.S. food container company that provided paper cups and other paper products which among other uses, were found at large professional sports venues. The ink used to manufacture other products contained PCBs – potentially toxic environmental compounds – and was spilled on the concrete floor, leaving it contaminated.  Groundwater on the western side of the building also contained TCE, a cleaning solvent that previously was used in anesthesia.
Also see previous post here.  Solo Cup Company info here.

Note: It is not certain why the company originally took the Fonda name, but there is a family branch which settled in the area in the mid-1800’s and a local town used to be called Fonda Junction.

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