The Environmental Protection Agency’s remediation plan for Alachua County’s Stephen Foster neighborhood has begun. The EPA created a plan for the neighborhood to cleanup the pollution caused by the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site.
Under the plan, the responsible party and former owner, Beazer East, Inc., will remove the top foot of polluted soil, which contains the carcinogen dioxin. However, some residents are saying the efforts will only make the pollution worse.
Cheryl Nicholson, a Stephen Foster resident, said digging up the soil will move the dioxin into the air and add to the pollution.
Nicholson mentioned that she and her neighbors have been dealing with the site’s pollution for years. She explained some of the unconventional experiences she’s had while living in the neighborhood.
“Five years after moving into this house I got cancer kind of unexpectedly,” Nicholson said. “I’ve seen abnormalities in wildlife — geckos with two tails, geckos with no legs.”
Nicholson explained how her neighbors participate in the cleanup efforts, but that she doesn’t because she has lost faith in the government.
“I’m proud of the people in the neighborhood who’ve tried to stick up for their rights,” she said, “but you can’t fight city hall and you sure can’t fight the federal government.”
John Mousa, the pollution and prevention manager for the Alachua County EPA, said there are about 70 properties around the former Superfund site containing contaminated soils. Beazer East, Inc. will make an individual plan for each home and with the homeowner’s permission, will begin carrying them out this January.
Mousa recognized the plan is not perfect, but believes it’s the best thing for the neighborhood right now.
“We understood the concerns of the community,” he said. “It certainly has been a stressful time for the residents that live next door.”
According to Mousa, it is very important to the EPA to get as many properties as possible to agree to the plan.
“It has raised some anxieties and it’s raised some concerns for some of the residents and we understand those,” he said. “But we feel right now, the best thing to do for that neighborhood is get these soils cleaned.”
Even after considering the benefits of the cleanup plan for the neighborhood, Nicholson said she will not participate in these efforts. Regardless of the dioxin, she said Stephen Foster will always be her home.