Officials to meet about Hyde Park

The politicians have spoken. Now it's the scientists' turn.

 

One of the state Environmental Protection Division's top hazardous waste officials will tour Hyde Park today in hopes of learning more about the neighborhood.

Mark Smith, chief of EPD's Hazardous Waste Management Branch, said he plans to meet with Augusta Brownfields Commission Chairman Charles Utley to discuss a request to relocate the community's remaining residents.

"We're there in support of the county," Mr. Smith said. "Rev. Utley has a good background knowledge of the area, and we want to talk further with him."

Mr. Utley and others, citing a study released last fall that found elevated levels of lead in soil samples, want the area evacuated and its residents compensated for their property. A rival group, calling itself Hyde Park Pride, contends that pollution in the area falls far short of warranting a mass relocation that could cost taxpayers $20 million or more.

Woody Merry, an activist opposing relocation, believes beautification is the best solution. Mr. Merry is recruiting volunteer assistance - including heavy equipment and personnel - in hopes of scheduling a cosmetic cleanup there later this year.

Although no date has been set, Mr. Merry said in an e-mail that it will be after Masters Week and could involve re-engineering the drainage ditches that have been a perennial problem in the area.

Mr. Smith said the purpose of today's 10 a.m. meeting at the Utley Community Center in Hyde Park is to gather information, and not to make formal decisions.

Last month, however, citing numerous earlier studies of the area, he told legislators during a meeting in Atlanta that although the report released in September showed lead in some soil samples, it didn't indicate widespread contamination that would qualify for wholesale relocations.

Robert Mullins, an environmental attorney working with Hyde Park Pride, said he examined the September report prepared by the Brownfields Commission's consultant - Gannett Fleming - and found nothing alarming.

"We have only been able to identify two of 34 sample locations in Hyde Park that a constituent of concern exceeds the Georgia EPD notification limits," he wrote in an e-mail to The Augusta Chronicle.

Of those two samples, only one exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's minimum action level for residential property, and both samples adjoin the former Goldberg junkyard that has since been cleaned up, he wrote.

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

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Augusta Brownfields Commission Chairman Charles Utley will meet with representatives from Georgia's Environmental Protection Division to discuss Hyde Park.

WHERE: Mary Utley Community Center, 2024 Goldenrod St., Hyde Park

WHEN: 10 a.m. today.