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Remains of State Street Saloon will head to Ohio for disposal

Union Leader Correspondent

May 19. 2017 12:19AM

A large excavator removed rubble from the site of the former State Street Saloon in Portsmouth Thursday. Plans are to dispose of the debris in Ohio. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — The rubble that is being removed from the site of a massive fire that destroyed the State Street Saloon and 14 apartment units last month will be trucked to Ohio for disposal.

On Thursday, workers on scene were dressed in protective gear and used a hose to keep the dust down, as an excavator scooped up what remains of the three historic buildings, which used to stand on the corner of the block.

Jason LaBranche, who is overseeing the project for Peniel Environmental in Milford, said workers are suited up in case there is asbestos in the pile.

“There’s no way to tell if there is any asbestos in that pile, so we’re taking all the appropriate precautions to make sure if there is asbestos, it is contained,” LaBranche said. He added they are running air samples in multiple locations to ensure fiber concentrations are at a safe level.

LaBranche said Renaud Industries of South Berwick, Maine, is performing the rubble removal. Once crews finish picking up all of the debris, 10 trucks will be used to ship the materials to Minerva Enterprises in Waynesburg, Ohio. According to its website, the landfill there is located on land that was used as a coal strip mine in the late 1950s and 1960s, and has quantities of permeable clay reserves.

LaBranche said there are places in New Hampshire and Maine that could accept the potentially contaminated rubble, but it is less expensive to truck it to Ohio, where disposal fees are lower.

“It’s cheaper for me to send it to Ohio. I know it sounds ridiculous,” LaBranche said. He could not disclose the difference in price, saying he works directly for the owner of the property who is paying for the removal.

Rubble removal began Wednesday.

Plans are to finish up the excavation Friday, but LaBranche said their work could be extended into the beginning of next week. That will depend on what state the basement is in, he said.

In the April 10 fire, saloon patrons and those who lived in the surrounding apartment complexes escaped without injury, despite three of four damaged buildings collapsing.

Portsmouth has a five-alarm system, and by 4 a.m., fire officials were still calling for mutual assistance as they went to a general alarm status. By 9 a.m., the front of the saloon was being knocked down as firefighters continued to manage hot spots.

It is still not clear what will happen at the one affected building that is still standing at 278 State St., and whether or not the land where the saloon once stood will be sold.

Saloon proprietor Eli Sokorelis is planning to reopen, and has been looking at other spaces in downtown Portsmouth. Sokorelis was able to retrieve some of his belongings before they were placed in a truck for shipping.

According to city records posted online by the assessor’s office, the buildings destroyed in the fire were built in 1850.

Fires Business Environment Portsmouth

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