NAVARRE — The cost to renovate the Navarre Beach Bridge has increased after “action levels” of lead were found in the span’s paint.
An action level is an Environmental Protection Agency designation that in this case indicates the amount of lead exceeds safe levels and must be removed and disposed of as hazardous waste, Santa Rosa County Engineer Roger Blaylock said.

County commissioners voted Dec. 13 to approve a $769,497 budget amendment to cover the cost of the lead abatement.

“When it becomes an issue like that it requires a significant amount of testing, not just for the material but for the workers,” Blaylock said. “This is a very closely monitored project.”

Monitoring includes taking blood samples of workers before, during and after the job, Blaylock said.

The discovery of the lead came as a surprise, he said.

The Florida Department of Transportation reported before turning the bridge over to the county in 2006 that it had tested the span and found no lead present, he said.

“Documentation we received from DOT last year when we started the project indicated lead had been abated on the bridge,” Blaylock said. “In those documents it described a past renovation project in which material removed had been collected, placed in 55-gallon drums and disposed of.”

The cost of the abatement, which includes hauling the lead to a hazardous waste site in another state, brings the price tag for the bridgework to $3.14 million.

The project began last October. The original cost was being paid from $4 million the DOT gave Santa Rosa for maintenance when county officials agreed to take ownership of the 50-year-old bridge.

“We will be talking to DOT” about the misinformation provided, Blaylock said. “I don’t know if we’ll go back and ask them for more money.”

The original contract with Structural Preservation Systems called for repairs to the bridge’s fender system, replacement of pedestrian railings, concrete spall and crack repairs, replacement of expansion joints and steel replacement and repair.

Blaylock said workers are removing the lead just ahead of those doing the renovation.

The timeline to finish the project has been extended 60 days, but contractors are “making every effort to keep to the March 1 time frame for completion,” Blaylock said.