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Clearing The Way: Remediation Efforts Officially Underway At Site Of Massive Blaze

Debris removal is underway at the former Crawford Furniture manufacturing complex in Jamestown. Crews are pictured Tuesday afternoon at the Allen Street site. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun removing debris from the former Crawford Furniture manufacturing complex in Jamestown.

Crystal Surdyk, city director of development, on Monday provided a brief update on the site remediation to members of the City Council’s Housing Committee. She said the EPA and its contractors have been at the Allen Street property “just about every day,” and noted that debris removal and other work began in earnest just after Thanksgiving.

“They’re moving right along,” Surdyk said of the EPA. “They started hauling out some materials last week.”

The property has been a thorn in the city’s side for several years. Home to Crawford Furniture during the city’s manufacturing heyday, the site had slowly fallen into disrepair in the decade after the company filed for bankruptcy.

In addition to numerous code violations, Surdyk said more than $100,000 is owed in unpaid property taxes.

Owned by Allen Street Development LLC, the complex had most recently been used for storage. However, the property was largely destroyed by a spectacular fire that broke out in November 2022.

At that time, the EPA had been coordinating the removal of drums from the property that contained hazardous materials used in the making of furniture. The government agency, at the city’s behest, got involved in June 2021.

Efforts by the city to have the site cleaned up and later to recoup some of the costs associated with the fire have been slow going. A city Housing Court matter between Jamestown and Allen Street Development has dragged on for months, and Surdyk on Monday noted ironically that the first day of clean up coincided with the arrival of major snowfall.

However, even with the accumulation, she said the EPA was “able to work most of the day without really any interruptions.”

Housing Committee Chair Marie Carrubba, D-Ward IV, asked Surdyk how long she expected the work to take. Surdyk said the weather will likely factor into the timeline, but added that certain conditions may actually help because the debris needs to be wet for it to be accepted at the landfill. That’s due to the potential of asbestos in the material, and being wet prevents the release of fibers into the air.

“There’s a lot of unknowns with regard to the site still,” Surdyk said.

In its project note available online, the EPA said it is “demolishing damaged buildings and disposing of asbestos and asbestos-containing debris at the Allen Street Development site.”

Further, the EPA said it will decontaminate material from the site that can be set aside for

recycling.

“During the demolition, EPA is evaluating and properly disposing of hazardous substances as well as continuously monitoring the air to protect on-site workers and the public,” the government agency said.

Surdyk said more material may be found as the cleanup progresses. She said the original timeline had the EPA and its contractors coming in last spring and finishing by the end of summer.

“Starting now, with the delay and with the potential for there to be some delays because of weather off and on, it’s going to be spring, maybe mid-spring even, before they’re completely done,” she said Monday. “I think we’ll start to see some significant change. There’s just so much debris.”

Afterward, Surdyk expects the property to be “shovel ready” for new development. She alluded to the state’s Brownfield cleanup program that could encourage someone to put the site to new use.

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