Contaminants from the former Goldberg scrapyard have likely been transferred to nearby Hyde Park neighborhoods through stormwater runoff and periodic flooding, according to environmental studies presented to Augusta commissioners Thursday.
Gannett Fleming Inc., which conducted the soil and groundwater tests last winter, also estimated cleanup costs in the area could range from $5 million to $20 million, depending on whether future uses of the property were residential or commercial.
The findings prompted a renewed call for relocating hundreds of residents of the aging neighborhood who have maintained for two decades that their homes - and lives - are affected by toxic waste.
"There has to be a relocation plan looked at," said Charles Utley, the chairman of the Augusta Brownfields Commission, which applies for federal dollars to clean blighted areas.
Mr. Utley, who shared the report Thursday during an Augusta Commission budget hearing, requested funding for a relocation plan that could be implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Gannett Fleming report found that heavy metals, PCBs and other materials that originated at the Goldberg junkyard were present in off-site soil, but groundwater impact was limited to two test wells on the Goldberg site.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver said the report confirms what many had already known to be true.
"This is the neighborhood with the greatest needs in this city," he said.
The former junkyard, whose bankrupt owners left behind 40,000 tons of scrap metal, tires and contaminated soil, took five years - and $7 million from a state trust fund - to clean up.
In past decades, the Hyde Park neighborhood was the focus of intense scientific and medical scrutiny from the EPA, U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, several local organizations and even a Governor's Task Force.
Residents lobbied for years that they should be relocated.
They were disappointed, however, when the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded in 1993 - and again in 1995 after a re-examination of data - that the area "is not a health hazard to surrounding neighborhoods."
Unresolved, however, were questions about the extent to which residents might have been exposed to toxic materials before 1993, the study also concluded.
In light of the report's findings, Commissioner Marion Williams said the commission needs to act quickly to relocate the residents.
"A lot of us didn't want to face it. A lot of us thought it was going to be something else," he said. "But we know that the area has been in a bad situation for a long time."
The commission plans to consider the issue Tuesday at its next meeting.
Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HYDE PARK STUDY CONCLUSIONS
- Metal and PCBs from the former Goldberg junkyard likely washed into Hyde Park during floods and stormwater runoff, creating contaminated surface soils.
- Significantly higher concentrations of metals in soil exist on the Richmond Recycling property and in backyards of homes along Walnut Street that abut the former Goldberg site.
- Estimated costs to clean up soil range from $5 million to $20 million depending on the proposed future use of the area as residential or commercial.
- Groundwater impact appears to be limited to a relatively small area around two wells on the former Goldberg Brothers site.
- Additional studies are warranted to better define the extent of soil contamination and to refine the estimated remedial costs.
- Potential future developers of property in the area should investigate Georgia's Brownfields Program for remedial options that might reduce the cleanup costs and provide future liability protection.
Source: Gannett Fleming Inc.