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Remediation of wood treatment facility public meeting tomorrow

The first phase of the cleanup of the Superfund site where Picayune Wood Treating was located is nearing completion and another phase will begin soon.

To update the public on how progress is going, a public meeting featuring updated information on the process and what progress has been made will be held at 7 Thursday night, at the St. James AME Church, 700 Jones St. The meeting also will feature one on one discussions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and or the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry beginning at 6 p.m.

Environmental Protection Agency On-Site Coordinator Karen Buerki said a lot of progress has been made since the agency began clean-up procedures. One of the contaminants of concern is creosote, which Buerki said contains a laundry list of carcinogenic substances. Creosote was used at the site to treat wood for a number of years and has contaminated the site.

So far, soil contaminated with creosote and other hazardous substances has been removed from the banks of Mill Creek, South Side Lower Elementary School’s campus, and the yards in neighboring residential areas. Contaminated soil found off-site has been moved to the Superfund site. The least contaminated of the soils collected during the cleanup came from South Side Lower Elementary, which makes it eligible to be used as fill dirt, Buerki said.

After the contaminated soil was removed from affected residential yards, restoration consisted of fill dirt, soil and finally sod. Mill Creek’s banks have been reinforced with vegetative material to form a root system.

Old creosote poles left on-site were ground up and spread on-site to prevent the soil from eroding or sent to Georgia Pacific to be used as incinerator fuel.

Buerki said cleanup will continue until the end of April at which time Michael Taylor, EPA Remedial Project manager, will take over with additional work.

“People always show concern if this is dangerous and what’s going to happen when we leave,” Buerki said.

When Buerki’s crew leaves, she said Taylor’s crew will come in to put up slurry walls and install caps to ensure there will be no more ground water contamination. Slurry walls are impermeable barriers that localize contamination, such as the creosote at the Picayune Wood Treatment site. Caps consist of several layers of clay, fabric, sand and the contaminated soil. Caps will be surrounded by slurry walls. On top of the cap will be vegetation Taylor has said in a previous meeting.

Once the site is complete, it will be available for the city to use as open space, or for any other use, except residential, Buerki said.

There are a number of old buildings on the site. Some will be torn down, but action on some are awaiting relocation of the high-pressure gas line. The agency is considering keeping one or two of the buildings as historic monuments or museums.

Questions concerning the operations at the site can be posed at the meeting and residents will have the chance to gather additional information. At the last meeting, a number of questions were posed by community members and those questions have been answered. Pamphlets will be handed out at Thursday’s meeting containing those questions and their answers, Buerki said.