King Industries broke ground on the construction of a new $50 million chemical factory in the city's Waterbury Industrial Commons on Friday morning.
While the Norwalk-based firm was lining up ceremonial shovels for dignitary photo shoots, development officials were approving the final plan to pay for any lingering contamination there.
Like the rest of the industrial park, the 11-acre parcel bought by King was laced with low-level toxic chemicals and heavy metals left behind by the former occupant, Chase Brass & Copper Co.
The city had set aside about $1 million to clean up that property as part of the overall $60.4 million WIC clean-up bond. That effort is also aided by a $14.7 million federal defense grant.
The city remains on the hook for the cleanup even though the lot is now owned by King, said project manager Andrew Martelli. That responsibility was written into the $750,000 purchase deal in 2013.
On Friday, the board of directors of the Waterbury Development Corp., the city's development arm, learned the cleanup costs will fall under its $1 million parcel budget, at least for now, Martelli said.
The board agreed to pay about $919,000 to Woodard & Curran to implement a remedial action plan that lays out how the property is to be investigated, cleaned and monitored.
"The site is not as dirty as everybody thought," Martelli said. "At least, so far. There is no way of knowing what King might dig up, but at this point, we think we know where the hot spots are."
WDC sent Woodard & Curran's cleanup plan, which focuses on the removal of contaminated soil, to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in June for approval.
But that isn't stopping King from moving forward. King has fallen a few months behind schedule, but not because of the cleanup plan, said Robert A. King, the company's director of operations.
"These things take time," King said. "We've never done this kind of thing before, and we wanted to do it right. We went back and forth on our final drawings. Now we're close enough to go."
King hired O&G Industries to build the manufacturing space, lab and warehouse planned for the parcel. The project will create about 60 construction jobs and 25 full-time jobs over three years.
Once built out, King estimates the facility will employ 55 full-time plant jobs, from engineers to electricians. It will generate $1.4 million a year in local property taxes, phased in as tax breaks expire.
The facility will account for about one third of the industrial park.
The company plans to make a lubricant to make a car more fuel efficient here, and then launch a new line of windmill lubricants. Over time, Waterbury will host King's entire operation.
King ran out of room at its current location on the Norwalk shore. King spent five years looking for a property near a main interstate in a manufacturing community with a skilled labor force.