Some Hyde Park residents want to stay

Although activists continue to push for what could become a $20 million taxpayer-funded buyout and relocation of Hyde Park residents, some homeowners don't think it's necessary.

 

"I don't believe there's any reason to leave," said Charles Whitehead, who has lived in the community more than 50 years. "I think somebody's trying to push something just to get us to move."

Mr. Whitehead and nine other Hyde Park homeowners joined activist Woody Merry and their environmental attorney, Robert Mullins, at a news conference Tuesday to oppose relocation.

"We're here today to talk about the other side," Mr. Mullins said, noting that recent studies found isolated soil contamination but nothing to warrant evacuating 500 residents.

"These residents would be better off with beautification, not relocation," Mr. Mullins said, noting that lengthy studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry concluded a decade ago that relocation was unnecessary.

The newly formed group, calling itself Hyde Park Pride, wants to learn whether rumors of dangerous contamination are anything more than rumors, Mr. Merry said.

Don Davis, a Hyde Park resident for 52 years whose mother also lives in the subdivision off Dan Bowles Road, said most homeowners want to stay.

"If there isn't contamination, we just want to be left alone," he said.

During Mr. Merry's news conference, former Augusta fire chief and mayoral candidate Ronnie Few joined the crowd and tried to tell the residents about excess cancer deaths and illnesses in the area.

"It is time for government intervention," Mr. Few said.

His comments didn't sit well with Mr. Merry - or with the residents.

"No, we don't buy that, Mr. Few," said Nora Roberts, who has lived in Hyde Park most of her life.

After a heated verbal exchange between Mr. Few and Mr. Merry, Mr. Davis asked Mr. Few to leave.

"Everybody here want Mr. Few to leave?" he asked. The residents all clapped in affirmation, voting Mr. Few away from their news conference. He stayed anyway.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

PAST FINDINGS

- Lead, arsenic and PCBs in ditches are not dangerous unless residents eat the sediment on a daily basis for many years.

- Lead in the soil at the Goldberg salvage site was a potential health concern before the area was cleaned up.

- Chromium and lead in groundwater are a health hazard only if residents drink the water. (The area now has city water lines.)

- Unfenced drainage ditches near Clara Jenkins Elementary School pose a drowning hazard and a chemical hazard because of runoff from industries nearby.

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1993 study by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Federal Health Consultation