The remediation process for homes contaminated by the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site will soon begin for those who have agreed to Beazer East, Inc.’s plan to clean up inside and outside of the polluted properties.
Homes inside the Stephen Foster Neighborhood rest atop soil contaminated with dioxins, arsenic and other dangerous compounds from a nearby wood treatment facility named Koppers, which was in operation for 100 years before being sold to Beazer East, Inc. in 2009.
When Casper Genaro moved to the neighborhood six years ago, she said her lawn was something to be admired.
“I had (angel’s) trumpet trees lining this whole entire fence,” Genaro said. “They were always beautifully in bloom in the springtime.”
Today, Genaro can’t grow grass on her property.
“Now this is what it looks like year-round because of all the arsenic that has leached into the ground,” Genaro said.
The Cabot-Koppers property, located off of Main Street and Northwest 23rd Avenue, was declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1983.
A consent decree binding the responsible party, Beazer East, Inc., to the cleanup process was signed in February of this year.
The remediation originally agreed to only remove a foot of topsoil from the affected homes, but now also gives the option to have a cleaning service enter the homes to remove dust.
Landscaping services will also be offered, giving homeowners their choice of non-invasive plants that are sustainable in Florida.
Kim Popejoy, president of Protect Gainesville’s Citizens, a nonprofit group for citizens to voice their opinions regarding the superfund, said 80 out of the 86 homes in the remediation zone have agreed to the EPA and Beazer East, Inc.’s plan.
Stephen Foster Neighborhood resident Maria Parsons told WUFT News a few months ago she would not be accepting the offer because she is involved in a class-action lawsuit with Beazer East, Inc.
Parsons is part of a group of residents who are not interested in having their homes cleaned up — those residents would like to be bought out so they can move elsewhere.
Popejoy, also a property-owner inside the remediation zone, said the best way for them to recover value outside of a legal process — which they have not been able to secure to date — is by getting their properties cleaned up and choosing marketable landscaping.
“As their brothers and sisters living next door, we want our whole neighborhood clean, not just 95 percent of it,” Popejoy said.
Donald Daley has been selling homes in Gainesville for over a decade. The broker associate for Coldwell Banker M.M. Parrish said selling a home in Stephen Foster has always been a challenge, but the new cleanup efforts will add significant value to the homes.
Eventually, the efforts will positively affect how people perceive the neighborhood, Daley said.
Popejoy said PGC, Beazer East, Inc., the EPA and the City of Gainesville are focused on making the process as easy as possible for the residents. The homes are being examined on a case-by-case basis in order to assess the individual needs of every resident.
He said some residents will be relocated to nearby hotels while their homes are being remediated.
The remediation process is expected to end in March, with most of the physical changes being done over the winter months, when plants are most dormant, Popejoy said.
There’s no deadline request for remediation, but at some point residents will no longer be able to ask for cleanup of their homes.
Casper Genaro is aware the process may be troublesome for a few months, but said she is looking forward to seeing the results of the cleanup.
“It’s gonna be a big process and it probably won’t be fun, however, it needs to be done,” Genaro said. “They’ve been promising to do it for a long time, and finally it’s coming to fruition.”