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  Georgia Times-Union                  April 5, 2007  
     
 

Residents in Glynn want EPA to come clean
Questions remain about Brunswick Superfund site

 
 

BRUNSWICK - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has some explaining to do about its plans for cleaning up the site of the former Brunswick Wood Preserving operation.

That's what the Glynn Environmental Coalition and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston's office are saying.

The EPA appears set to take a stab at it during what it terms an "informal availability session" from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Stellar Conference Center, 144 Ventura Drive in Brunswick. The session will allow interested parties an opportunity to speak one-on-one with an EPA representative about planned site activities, EPA officials said.

The site on Perry Lane Road near its intersection with U.S. 341 was added to the federal Superfund program in 1997 and underwent rudimentary cleansing. About 151,000 tons of contaminated soil were gathered by the EPA and removed from the area by the state. The tainted soil contained such heavy metals as copper, chromium and arsenic.

But the cleanup operation was halted not long after it began, leaving residents and merchants in the area confused and worried. What was removed was only the tip of a very polluted iceberg, according to Daniel Parshley of the Glynn Environmental Coalition.

"More than a million cubic yards of contaminated soil were left at the site," he said. "There are no plans to move it out. It's an out-of-control site and the EPA hasn't demonstrated it knows how to keep it under control."

The heavy metals and chemicals continue to leach through the soil into groundwater, Parshley said, and a drainage pipe still leaks into Burnett Creek.

EPA officials contend, however, that any immediate risk had been removed by 1997.

The coalition has collected anecdotal evidence that the pollution is causing health problems for some residents of the area, however, including unexplained rashes, sores and earaches.

Of particular concern to the coalition and Kingston, R-Ga., was a heavy rain in October 2005 brought on by Tropical Story Tammy that resulted in flooding in the area.

Contaminated water stood in some yards for several days.

Rob Asbell, Kingston's communications director based in Brunswick, said the congressman is concerned by EPA's unresponsiveness.

"Congressman Kingston contacted EPA on several occasions," Asbell said. "This started building up to something dangerous with Tropical Storm Tammy. There was a lot of concern with the flooding. We found out some things, but the EPA was not forthcoming with priority, how they will rank the project. They didn't give us a timetable."

Brian Farrier, EPA project manager for the Brunswick Wood Preserving site, disagreed. He said Kingston has been kept well-informed.

"In the last year and a half alone, we've responded to his questions four times," Farrier said. "I'm not aware that we haven't been responsive to him."

Farrier said the remedial plan is in place for the site and will be carried out over the next couple of years. Polluted soil will be contained in what he likens to a giant can, with sides and a cap constructed and bedrock 50 to 65 feet below the surface serving as the bottom.

The pollutants will be sealed in and rainwater will be prevented from leaching through, he said.

The agency only recently has received funding for the project. It completed its remedial plan for the site in 2004 and has been awaiting funding since then.

Carol Monell, chief of the Superfund Remedial Branch, said faster action was not required because the immediate threat was removed in the mid-1990s cleanup. What remains offers some potential long-term problems, but nothing imminent and nothing of concern for nearby residents, she said.

Farrier and several other EPA officials will be on hand tonight to answer any questions.

 

 
     

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