Originally created 06/20/03

Atlanta Gas clash persists



An environmental cleanup in Augusta remains in legal limbo while attorneys for Atlanta Gas Light Co. and the city work toward a contract for completion of the project.

On Wednesday, several city leaders went to Atlanta to meet with gas company representatives. Negotiations continued about excavation work being done in the Laney-Walker neighborhood at the site of a former manufactured-gas plant near a section of the Augusta Canal.

That four-hour meeting ended without resolution, city leaders said. Neither government officials nor a gas company spokesman would discuss Wednesday's talks.

"Negotiations with Atlanta Gas Light on the canal improvements continue," Mayor Bob Young said Thursday. "If negotiations fail to reach an agreement, the city will respond in an appropriate manner."

Asked whether a lawsuit had been considered by Augusta officials, City Administrator George Kolb said, "Nothing has been ruled out."

Earlier this month, Atlanta Gas Light contractors threatened to pull out of the cleanup project and delay the removal of contaminated soil unless the Augusta Commission approves an environmental plan before the end of the month.

That plan is different from one approved by the commission more than a year ago because it does not have several aesthetic improvements at the nearby canal.

The original cleanup plan included about $9 million worth of civil work and included digging out the contaminated canal channel, widening it and laying concrete in the area. The gas company was supposed to contribute to the cost of those improvements, city leaders maintained.

A letter from a gas company spokesman dated earlier this month said that, although contractors "remain committed" to helping with canal improvements, Augusta must fund 100 percent of the cost.

The city refuses to sign a waiver allowing the gas company to perform work on public property until it agrees to fund some of the additional civil projects.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.