|Flood, drop in
funds add to worries for toxic land
By JACK MORSE
The Brunswick News
In a way, Frank Lea feels cheated.
When he bought a house on Perry Lane Road five
years ago, he wasn't aware that he would be living near what is
essentially a toxic dump - the Brunswick Wood Preserving site.
Escambia Treating Co. once operated the
facility, decades ago, on 84 acres in the area. Operations at the
facility contaminated the groundwater with creosote, pentacholorophenal
(PCP) and copper chromium-arsenate (CCA), all of which were used in a
wood-treating process. The Environmental Protection Agency began to
remove contaminants in 1991, but contaminants remain.
"I knew the wood preserving site was there but
wasn't aware of the extent of the contaminants it left behind," Lea
Now, the situation may be worse. Recent flooding
may have washed contaminants from the area into the private wells of
In 1997, the site was deemed hazardous enough to
earn a spot on the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities
List of Superfund sites. But that designation has done little good,
Glynn Environmental Coalition representatives contend, since funds to
clean the site do not seem to be forthcoming.
According to a report recently released by the
GEC and other environmental organizations across the country, the
once-robust Superfund program, established in the 1980s to clean up
toxic waste sites, is now underfunded, with program costs shifting from
polluting industries to regular taxpayers.
Originally, the Superfund program collected
taxes - called polluter pays fees - from oil and chemical companies that
were then used to help pay for the cleanup of sites where the original
polluting company was bankrupt.
The fees expired in 1995 and Congress refused to
reinstate them, so the burden has shifted to taxpayers, the report says.
Accordingly, it notes that Superfund cleanups
have slowed from 88 sites in 1997 to 16 sites cleaned in 2005. GEC
president Bill Owens said sites like Brunswick Wood Preserving often get
overlooked because the companies have gone bankrupt.
"Ownership has been abandoned, which means the
EPA has it, which means we (as taxpayers) have it," he said. "It's in
our back pocket. We're stuck with it."
In the early 1990s, the EPA began working on the
site, removing the site structures and treating wastewater. But activity
has been largely non-existent in recent years, even though the area
still poses a significant health threat to nearby residents, the GEC
says. Lea noted a pipe that he said still drains contaminants from the
site into Burnett Creek.
In addition to private wells, Owens is concerned
about municipal wells near the area. He also said the EPA has not been
forthcoming about where the Brunswick Wood Preserving site is ranked to
But EPA official Kerry Humphrey, based in
Washington, D.C., said that though sites like Brunswick Wood Preserving
are placed on a National Priority List, they are not necessarily given a
certain position on that list.
"There never is a clear-cut numerical ranking,"
she said. "It's all a matter of tailoring the cleanup plan to what's
assessed as risk and what the construction plan is and what risk it's
Humphrey said it's hard to determine exactly
when a site might receive funding, and that the more dangerous sites
Brian Farrier, EPA project manager for the site,
has said in the past that Brunswick Wood Preserving does not pose a
threat as long as people stay outside a fence that surrounds the area.
But that may have changed because recent flooding could have washed
contaminants into nearby wells.
David Dorian, a member of an EPA emergency
response team, was in Brunswick recently to assess possible problems the
flooding may have caused. Results from that examination are not in.