Decree filed for Cabot-Koppers site cleanup

By on February 13th, 2013

A consent decree was filed Thursday to clean up the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site, which has contaminated local soil and the Floridan aquifer system for the past three decades.

The decree was created between Beazer East, Inc. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Floridan aquifer system that was contaminated makes up 90 percent of the state’s drinking water.

“The reason it’s filed in federal court is to make sure the consent decree … can be legally enforced,” said Chris Bird, director of the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department. “It’s certainly a start.”

Cleanup at the site, which is located near Northwest 23rd Avenue and North Main Street, would cost Beazer East, Inc. about $60 million, according to Scott Miller, project manager at the EPA. The length of the cleanup is a major concern.

“The downside of these responsible-party-funded cleanups is that they tend to take longer,” he said. “I guess we are lucky in a sense that we have a corporation that’s got assets and that’s willing to go forward.”

Residents from the Stephen Foster neighborhood adjacent to the site fear toxins from the land could cause cancer. However, researchers from the Alachua County Health Department found no higher cancer rates than other areas.

Homeowners also expressed unease about the contamination inside their homes.

“The agreement does not really address that,” Bird said. “I think one reason is because there is no federal standard to define what is an acceptable level of certain chemicals within people’s houses.”

The public will be able to submit comments on the notice of consent decree, which the EPA expects to appear on Monday, for 30 days after its release.

“We can provide comments, we can provide suggestions, but we’re really not at the bargaining table directly when it comes to working out these terms,” Bird said.

A Gainesville federal judge must approve the decree before remediation work begins.

The ideal case for the cleanup would be to dig the contamination up and remove it, said Rick Hutton, the supervising utility engineer at Gainesville Regional Utilities.

“The problem is that it’s not a very cost-effective way of doing it,” he said.

The cost of the digging up method would be about $500 million, Hutton said. He said that would be the preferred way to go, but there are other more realistic methods to use.

Hutton said the company should focus on ground water containment, in which a well pumps the contaminated water out and cleans it, so the contamination in the ground water cannot continue to spread.

Laura Foreman wrote this story online.

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