Originally created 03/15/97

Expanding Gas



Coal tar contamination from a century-old gas plant in downtown Augusta has spread beyond perimeter boundaries identified in previous studies.

The additional contaminated areas include four or five parcels of land southeast of Twiggs Street toward Gordon Highway, said David Hudson, one of the lawyers representing the plant's owner, Atlanta Gas Light Company.

Previously, the contamination was thought to be confined to a 15-block area bounded by Ninth, Fenwick, Hopkins and Twiggs streets. Owners of land in that zone are eligible for compensation under terms of a settlement to a lawsuit.

"Right now, it appears continued testing may cause that (perimeter) line to move a little," Mr. Hudson said. Owners of the additional parcels likely will be added to the court-approved list of owners eligible for compensation.

Atlanta Gas Light's former gas factory at Eighth Street and Walton Way, closed 40 years ago, contains toxic chemicals linked to gas manufacturing there from 1852 to 1955. The lawsuit, filed in 1994 and settled out of court last year, claimed lead, cyanide and other chemicals had contaminated - and devalued - adjacent property.

The value of the affected properties, based on tax records, is more than $7.5 million. However, some owners directly impacted by the contamination also will receive relocation costs and other assistance.

Now that the lawsuit has been settled, efforts are under way to place value on affected properties so owners can collect compensation.

Some owners will receive a one-time payment of $1,000, according to the settlement. Others will receive 100 percent value for their property, plus relocation costs and added compensation for historic value.

Ross Willis, an Atlanta Gas Light spokesman, said cleanup work is continuing at the former plant site to remove contaminated water and coal tar in the old gas tank on the property.

Mr. Willis said additional tests are under way to confirm that the new contamination originated with the gas plant. The contamination was found 30 feet beneath the ground, posing no potential contact with anyone, he said.

So far, almost 3 million gallons of water - once 27 feet deep - have been removed from the tank. Also, about 15,000 gallons of coal tar were removed.

Mr. Hudson said tests of soil and groundwater outside the boundary are continuing in efforts to identify any additional areas affected by the coal tar.