YOUNGSTOWN Contaminants turn up at building site

Petroleum-based chemicals will be treated and left on site unless the courthouse expands.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Low-level contamination has been found in the dirt on the construction site of the new federal courthouse downtown.
Plans call for the dirt to be treated with enzymes and left undisturbed, said David Wilkinson, a spokesman for the federal General Services Administration.
The contamination is between eight feet and 10 feet below ground in the area of what will be a parking lot and on property that is being bought from Bank One. The area that was dug up for the courthouse itself was not contaminated, Wilkinson said.
About contaminants: The contaminants are petroleum-based chemicals that are believed to have been left there by a previous business, perhaps a foundry that once operated on the site, he said.
The site at Wick Avenue and Commerce Street most recently had been a parking lot, but the contamination isn't thought to be related to that use, he said.
More will be known about the extent of the contamination after the federal government takes over the adjacent Bank One site because more testing will be done, he said. The federal government recently acquired the bank site through eminent domain.
Plans don't call for removing the contaminated dirt now because of its depth and because a layer of clay underneath the dirt is containing it, Wilkinson said.
That could change if the courthouse is expanded later and construction occurs on the area of the contamination, he said.
Bank One discussions: The government has been talking to Bank One about acquiring its Commerce Street site for years, but bank officials have been resisting. Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus gave the bank until this Friday to close the office.
Wilkinson said the site will be used for parking and expansion of the courthouse.
The site was appraised at $190,000, but the federal government lowered its proposed payment to $90,500 after contamination was found.
Bill Anderson, Bank One senior vice president, said bank officials want to negotiate further on the payment.
He said Bank One doesn't intend to open another drive-through office downtown. The branch being closed didn't have walk-in banking.
Anderson said the bank recently spent $1.2 million to acquire land and build a similar office in the Wheeling, W.Va., area, but doesn't plan to do that here because the payment from the government is well below that amount.
An inconvenience: Closing the office will be inconvenient for customers because the nearest drive-through location is about two miles away on Market Street, he said. The bank does have a nearby walk-in lobby downtown.
Construction on the $10-million courthouse began this spring and is to be completed by fall 2002. It will house U.S. Bankruptcy Court and offices for the congressman for the 17th District, U.S. trustees, Internal Revenue Service and General Services Administration.
U.S. District Court will remain in the federal courthouse downtown and will be expanded.

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