Written by Tom Knighton
For years, it provided a much needed item to a growing Albany. Today, it sits vacant and poses a potential environmental hazard. The old manufactured gas plant was once part of modern life in the Good Life City, while today it appears that as much as $10 million may need to be spent to clean up the nearly six acre field.
City commissioners Roger Marietta and John Howard, along with city attorney Nathan Davis, toured the site earlier today with WG&L officials Kevin Goodin and Lee Daniels to discuss what Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division is calling for.
Once, two massive underground tanks contained a significant amount of the byproducts, while some of it went to local roofers who used the tar-like substance on homes and businesses and still more went on to be used as an additive in asphalt, some of which is still in place, simply covered by more recent asphalt. Officials in those days knew nothing about how toxic benzine could be, which is why what lies under the ground at the old plant’s site warranted the attention of the EPD.
Daniels told the commissioners that the waste had most likely hardened, but that a potential still exists for the chemicals to leach into ground water.
Discussion of the cleanup effort first begins with an exploratory phase, which is where WG&L is wanting to spend money they asked the city for last week. WG&L’s Keith Goodin told the Journal that while it is exploratory in nature, the project would also involve a certain amount of cleanup as they would dispose of whatever they pulled from the digging that is proposed.
Some of the questions surrounding the project were answered, including the bidding for a contractor for the project. Goodin told the commissioners that he personally spoke with representatives from three different firms, all of which have been involved in some of the nine cleanups that have already taken place in Georgia.
WG&L award the contract to a company called MacTec that is out of Atlanta. Commissioner Marietta asked if there had been any local firms that could do this kind of work, to which Goodin replied that none at that time were capable. “There might be some now,” he said, but went on to say that there weren’t when this was first discussed.
Goodin told the commissioners that the EPD has been getting pressure from the EPA to clean up these sites, so it was only a matter of time before they turned their eyes to Albany.
However, it appears that at least part of the expense may be met by an insurance policy through Hartford that should cover 33 percent of the current effort, and a possibility exists for even more payment should a full cleanup be necessary.
The site itself is littered with strange, square poles jutting up from the ground, which Daniels told the Journal are test wells where samples were taken to see what was happening beneath the soil. Some, painted yellow, date from the early 1990′s while other are more recent. Goodin told commissioner Howard that, in the spirit of frugality, they required contractors to use the existing wells and associated data to help keep costs down.
So how quick would this project be? Goodin told the commissioners that it could be just a matter of a couple of months depending on the weather.
Goodin also told the Journal that while there will be some cleanup involved in this project, it is possible that additional money will need to be spent to do a complete cleanup. “We’re digging in the worst spots,” he confided, noting that should results of the dig indicated a full cleanup isn’t necessary, it will be after hitting the spots with the highest concentrations of chemicals during the exploration.