Superfund site nears final redevelopment stage

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, July 18, 2013

Picayune’s Superfund site draws closer to the redevelopment stage.

Soil on the property, contaminated by creosote where wood was treated at the old Picayune Wood Treatment plant from the 1940s to the late 1990s, is in the final states of being completely contained.

A Superfund open house was hosted by members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on Tuesday and Wednesday at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church.

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The public was able to get a rundown of the Superfund project’s current status and what the future of the project holds.

All activity regarding the site between Rosa Street and Palestine Road, starting in 1999 through completion, has an estimated cost of $60 million.

The site comprises approximately 50 acres, including property for sale.

The most recent phase of the project has been to contain the contaminated soil from former industrial use into two capped cells.

Development of the containment cells has taken approximately 485 days and about 78,164 man hours have gone into this phase of the Superfund project.

Contaminated soil excavated has reached more than 137,600 cubic yards, said EPA Remedial Project Manager Michael Taylor. “The completed cells are capped off by two feet of soil and an impenetrable high-density polyethylene liner,” he said.

Soil brought from a local farm and used as fill on the site was once piled to a height of about three stories.

The highest point on either of the two cells is 14.5 feet with a downward gradual slope.

With that stage coming to a close, putting up a fence on the perimeter and landscaping are the only details remaining, said Taylor.

Groundwater testing and tracking will be an on-going effort for the next 10 years and two groundwater monitoring wells will be installed on-site to treat contamination.

Chemical oxidation will be used to remove ground water contamination from the most polluted areas and biological treatment, similar to sewage treatment, will be used in the less contaminated areas, said Taylor.

The surface soil contamination is maintained by the EPA for one year, after that, maintenance will be turned over to the state, said Taylor. “We maintain the groundwater for 10 years, then hand it over (to the state),” he said.

Ninety-percent of the project is funded by the EPA and 10-percent is paid for by the state.

In the future, restrictions will apply to building on the site that is now zoned as open space, OS-1. “Institutional controls will prohibit residential development and limit the types of construction permitted on the cells,” Taylor said.

Another restriction placed on the site includes receiving EPA and state approval to ever penetrate the concrete slabs that currently serve as additional soil-containment caps.

Superfund redevelopment and planning for the future of the site is the next center of focus.

“When getting near the completion of a project, it’s the perfect time to bring stakeholders together to discuss what they want to do with the project,” EPA Environmental Specialist Kyle Bryant said.

The property is currently owned by the state and is expected to be given to the city of Picayune.

In June, Bryant met with city officials and a grant coordinator. They solicited ideas from the EPA on different Federal agency funding mechanisms, said Bryant.

 “We’re at the stage of the project where it’s about cleaning it up and making it viable,” Bryant said. “This is a way to reinvent the city and making this site the focal point.”

Taylor has been talking to both the city and the state on the reuse of the site and says he could see something being put on the property for city use in 2014.

EPA contractor, Skeo Solutions develops plans for the city to consider for site use and realigns community goals.

“Funding to redevelop on-site is probably going to be key,” said Alisa Hefner, Skeo Solutions senior designer, on Tuesday.

With community consideration, open space opportunities are looked at. Specifically, trails and walk-ways in the short-term because they are less of an investment, said Hefner.

Bessie Means lives near the site and said she would like to see an all-purpose center placed on the property.

“Something recreational and for the kids,” Means said. “The more they do, the more they stay out of trouble,” she said.

Some of the ideas presented to the public for redevelopment included a dog park, outdoor theatre or a nature walk.

Early on, the EPA did ecological assessments and looked on the environmental side to see what wildlife has been affected, said Richard Hughes, Kemron Environmental Services regional health and safety manager.

“In 2004, 12 miles was investigated,” Hughes said. “It all checked out, and there was no ecological impact.”

There is a retention pond of approximately 2-acres in circumference and six-feet deep on the site that will eventually be used by wildlife.

“The site has a lot of potential,” Hefner said Tuesday.