Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Concerns About Creosote Site Cleanup and Misinformation Results in Large Crowd at Louisville Aldermen Meeting

There was standing room only at the Louisville Board of Alderman's meeting on Tuesday evening,
April 18th. Rumors, misinformation and legitimate concerns about the status and the responsibilities of the EPA Superfund cleanup of the American Creosote property here in Louisville were the driving forces behind the crowd of concerned citizens.

Over the last few weeks, applications for possible restitution for damages due to contamination and health issues resulting from the long term exposure to the pollutants at the site on Railroad Avenue have been circulating among the public. This has generated the hope that some may receive monetary payments from either American Creosote or another party responsible for the contamination. Some in the community have even been charged for assistance in completing these forms.

Unfortunately, these applications are little more than a scam upon the public. The forms provided are not related to the local American Creosote site but to an EPA cleanup site in Columbus, Ms. According to EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Ronald Tolliver, financial compensation or restitution is not an option for the Louisville site. Tolliver noted that the only party responsible for the pollution and contamination was American Creosote which is now a bankrupt company and there are no assets to liquidate to pay any restitution. Tolliver clarified that the applications being circulated around Louisville were not related to the Creosote site and could not and would not result in any financial compensation.

Tolliver indicated that cleanup of the 120 acre property was complete and that the EPA is in the process of turning the property over to the City of Louisville. He said that the goal of the EPA is to make sure that the health of the public and the environment are protected.

Several citizens expressed concern about possible contamination of surrounding properties and questioned whether actual tests had been completed on these properties. Tolliver could not answer specific questions on individual properties but was able to gather additional information from property owners for further review after the meeting concluded.

From the 1930s through the 1970s, American Creosote Works operated a wood treating facility at the
site along Railroad Avenue. During wood treating operations, disposal of processing materials in two uncontrolled waste lagoons at the site led to soil and sediment contamination. In 1984, the 120 acre site was investigated by the EPA and ultimately placed on a priority list in 2001. A plan for cleanup was implemented in 2007 and the cleanup was begun and completed in 2015.

As many as 20 hazardous chemicals were determined to be contaminants to the property and a number of techniques were applied for cleanup and containment including excavation and a containment cell on the property. As part of the process, the site is monitored on a yearly basis by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and a more indepth monitoring is completed by the EPA every five years.

When asked about street openings, Mayor Will Hill indicated that Railroad Avenue (which has been closed for approximately 5 years throughout the cleanup process) would reopen but due to its poor condition, it had been included in the street repair projects currently underway in the city. “Once the road has been repaired, it will be opened” said Hill. Hill noted that since the EPA still was in the process of transferring legal title to a portion of Baremore Street to the City, there would be a delay before it could be opened.

In September of 2015 a ReUse Concept Plan for the property was filed with EPA. The four page document can be found on the EPA website by clicking here. The following text is an excerpt from that plan:

REUSE PRIORITIES The City of Louisville and community stakeholders developed a reuse plan for the ACW site in 2005. Future uses identified in the plan include: economic development, cultural heritage, ecological uses and recreation. Now that cleanup is complete, EPA Region 4 sponsored a process to update the reuse plan. During discussions in 2014-2015, the City of Lousville and Winston County Economic Development identified the following current reuse priorities. 
• Leverage access to rail trans-loading facility. 
• Identify additional economic sectors that can benefit from rail and power. 
• Maintain open space areas and related amenities for new businesses and local residents. 
• Expand parcel acquisition to create a 150-acre rail-accessible industrial park. 

You can find out more about this cleanup site and the SuperFund process at the following site: