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'School of the future' builder hit with $13K in DEP fines

Lawrence Pierce
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has cited Carpenter Reclamation Inc. with multiple violations over the construction of the new Edgewood Elementary, which has been called "the school of the future." Kanawha County Schools will subtract the $13,400 fine from the company's payment, officials said, with no money coming from the education budget.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The contractor of Kanawha County's $21 million "school of the future" has racked up more than $13,000 in fines for violating West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection regulations.

The school system hired Sissonville-based contractor Carpenter Reclamation Inc. to build the 52,000 square-foot Edgewood Elementary School, which is slated to open next year.

The DEP has cited the company with multiple violations since it began clearing the wooded area off Edgewood Drive in Charleston in June 2012. Violations include failure to protect groundwater quality, failure to control dust and failure to operate and maintain erosion-control devices.

The contractor also allowed a petroleum product to flow onto land surface "in such a manner that could impact water quality" and created illegal water conditions by allowing "distinctly visible settleable solids" in a stream, according to the consent order.

The DEP inspected the site in February and the contractor was again cited for violations related to contaminated groundwater.

The $13,405 fine, issued in a DEP settlement last month, will be deducted from Carpenter Reclamation's payment and will not come from the Kanawha County Schools budget, according to Superintendent Ron Duerring.

Chuck Wilson, facilities manager for Kanawha County Schools, said he visits job sites on a regular basis, and Kanawha County Schools employs someone to be the "eyes and ears" of the Edgewood project, as well.

Wilson said the school system takes the bidding process seriously when selecting a contractor. He said these types of DEP violations are "pretty common," and pointed to an abundance of inclement weather as a contributing factor.

"It's not an abnormal thing to happen on a job, particularly with the kind of weather we've had," he said. "I think the DEP wanted contractors to react immediately when something was found, and I think the contractors' response time lagged to the point where the DEP just felt that a monetary penalty might get their attention."

The civil administrative penalty will go toward the DEP's Water Quality Management Fund.

Officials with Carpenter Reclamation Inc. could not be reached for comment.

Last year, Duerring called the school "museum-like." He has said that, among the school's unique qualities, the building will be used to teach students about environmental health. Signs throughout the school will monitor energy use, and students will learn about air quality, efficient HVAC systems, solar power and recycling.

This is not the first time the construction of the elementary school has caused issues.

Last summer, the DEP issued a notice of violation to Carpenter Reclamation after neighbors complained of illegal open burning near the school construction site. School board members at the time wanted to ensure that contractors who are hired by Kanawha County Schools are complying with state code.

"I know these contractors have to make money, too, and if they are allowed, they will take shortcuts," school board member Robin Rector said when the issue was first raised last summer. "We just really need to supervise it. I would be totally dismayed if I was living on this street and had to navigate the amount of smoke and cinder. We are clearly over the line here."

School board President Pete Thaw said that, while the contractor is to blame, the school system needs to be more aware of the work of its employees.

"We pay someone to be there all the time -- an on-site inspector that we've hired that's supposed to watch the project," Thaw said. "When our contractors violate something, it doesn't reflect badly on the school system, but it certainly reflects on our inspector."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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