Originally created 12/14/03

Successful cleanup



Just wondering: Are Augusta commissioners, who recently approved building the $74 million courthouse on contaminated land in downtown Augusta, wringing their hands in frustration that they didn't vote to locate it at the cleaned-up, uncontaminated old Goldberg Brothers site?

You recall the 10.8-acre Goldberg junkyard on Dan Bowles Road in south Augusta, near Hyde Park? For years it was one of the filthiest, most hazardous Superfund sites in the nation - littered with tons of tires, fetid garbage and soil soaked in poisonous chemicals, including PCBs, mercury and lead.

Hyde Park residents feared not just for their health, but their lives, especially their children's.

Today, after five years and $7 million, the once perilously polluted mess is not only safe but clean. Environmental studies confirm the ground surface is clear and the soil safe - so restored, in fact, that grass is starting to grow.

But you can scratch the former eyesore as a courthouse site. There are serious discussions under way to turn a portion of the acreage into an environmental asset - green space and a walking trail.

The Augusta Brownfields Commission is also working with the city to secure a federal economic development grant to recruit businesses for the site. An Alabama firm that manufactures components for prefabricated low-income housing is already showing interest. The company would take up about five acres and generate 30 to 40 jobs.

The Brownfields Commission, chaired by Charles Utley, has played a critical, and laudatory, role in the cleanup by working with Georgia's Environmental Protection Division and other groups to get federal Superfund dollars.

The commission and city are now turning their attention toward getting a $200,000 federal grant with an eye toward cleaning up and redeveloping the property across from the Goldberg site.

Let's hope they're as successful in this endeavor as they were in the first one. The cleanups should be a boost to Hyde Park area property values, which for years had been damaged by the junkyard.