I-Team: High levels of contaminants found at Sam's Club site

An old, industrial-sized motor and a rusted out 1,500 gallon fuel tank were just a few of the big ticket items pulled out of the ground at the new Sam's Club site in Warwick off of Bald Hill Road.

The site is now under the watchful eye of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The NBC 10 I-Team discovered documents filed by the EPA alleging "at some unknown time prior to August 20, 2012, PCB contaminated material was disposed of at the site by an unknown entity. The debris included metal scrap, electrical equipment, concrete and wood, along with steel tanks."

PCBs were banned from manufacturing in 1979 for fear they caused cancer. Some of the PCB levels reported at the Sam's Club site, more than a year ago, were significantly above state and federal standards.

According to records filed with the Department of Environmental Management, samples taken on Aug. 31, 2012 indicated PCBs were present at concentrations of up to 644 parts per million. EPA thresholds for acceptable levels of PCBs are set at 50 parts per million.

"The biggest issue with them is direct contact, either by touching or ingesting them, inhaling them," said David Hazebrouck, a hydrologist and president of Lakeshore Environmental in Cumberland.

Asked if there was any risk to the public, Hazebrouck said, "If it's managed properly during construction and measures are taken to minimize dust, I don't think the public has that much to worry about as long as those measures are in place."

The measures are in place now, but an EPA representative told the NBC 10 I-Team the Sam's Club contractor should have stopped excavating the site and tested the soil once they hit the debris. Instead, they allegedly stockpiled the contaminants off to the side and kept going. The government says that may have altered the soil sample results.

The EPA fined Sam's Club $37,500. The EPA confirmed the fine has been paid.

A site remediation plan is under way.

"Sam's Club has worked alongside our landlord and the EPA to correct any environmental issues in Warwick in advance of our January grand opening. Work is currently under way to solve the issues. This was an issue at the site before it was a Sam's Club and we didn't cause the issue, although we are committed to working with our landlord and the EPA to correct it as we prepare to open a new Sam's Club at the site," said Mark Scott, a Sam's Club spokesman.

The owner of the land is Kalikow Yaphank Development Corp. in New York. Calls placed to the corporation were not returned.

Sam's Club, which is owned by Walmart, closed in 2011 to make way for the new store.