The EPA subcontractors have come and gone. In short, the plan was followed and everything should be OK, but it sure took a lot of my energy to get to that point.
The longer version: Back at the beginning of March I met with representatives of the subcontractor in charge of doing the EPA lead remediation in my yard. I’m sure they have their own version of the events, but my version is that they said everything in my yard was slated to be dug up. Everything. And just 6 days after that meeting.
After the meeting, I voiced my concerns to the project supervisor at the EPA. I had many of them. I said that I’ve seen the process go well and I’d seen it go badly, and so far this was going badly, but I knew it could go better. I started clearing what I could from my garden (most of my plants were still dormant), felt horrible, and finally realized I could ask for more time. I heard unofficially that my yard had been rescheduled. I followed up more. Several weeks later I got a call and arranged a meeting with the contractor the next day.
Six or seven men showed up wearing their official safety vests and hard hats. It was a little intimidating. But, they were all very nice. They liked cats and birds and gardens. They complimented my garden, which by then had begun to emerge from dormancy. And they asked what I wanted to have done. They made new notes and a plan that would spare the perennial beds where I’d already added so much soil and so many plants. They asked when I would prefer to have the work done, and we came up with May 10, since I could get off work that day.
I waited and completed my final garden preparations. There was a false start when the excavation crew had their equipment in place and were ready to start about a week and a half before I’d anticipated. John told them, “not today,” and they moved on to the neighbor’s yard.
May 10 arrived and they were running late, but they still honored our agreement. They got their equipment in place on the 10th, and digging started on the 11th. They finished removing soil on the 13th. After some initial damage from trying to get the excavator into too tight a space, they were incredibly careful in the restrictive spaces of my yard. I was impressed with the care with which they manipulated the excavator claw so it missed my shed and fence on every pass.
After the contaminated soil was out, they brought new soil in. Whether it was the complaining to the project coordinator or dumb luck, I got some fantastic soil. At the initial meeting, they said I’d get fill dirt and only the top 4″ would be topsoil. In the end, it was all topsoil and “platinum grade” topsoil at that, as the contractor explained. It came from a source in Kentucky who mixes in racehorse manure, resulting in a relatively high percentage of organic material.
Of course, I still needed to argue with the skid loader driver so he wouldn’t try to fit his machine through the same spot where the excavator guy had tried and failed. The argument went longer than need be. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of work in my yard that needed to be done by hand and in the end they had people do it.
The topsoil was added, then sod and mulch. Now we’re a week from when it all began and I’ve started to put things back where they belong. It felt good to get back to creating a garden again after holding back for so long. Even with my perennial beds being spared, it will take the summer to get things back in shape. I had them leave the back section bare where I hope to have a garden again just like I did before. However, the soil is incredibly compacted, so I’ll need to find a tiller to work it up before I can use it.
Below is a slideshow of what the process looked like, along with some videos to give you a feel. There are captions to explain what’s what. My cats should be on retainer for the EPA. They provided a lot of very critical supervision.
The excavator working in the tight space:
Lady Ygraine keeps an eye on the guys doing the hand digging:
Lady Ygraine Views the Quiet Excavator:
The skid loader brings new dirt: