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No toxins
at GE site

Waste in area, but nothing hazardous, records show

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Environmentalists can breathe — sort of.

A 42-acre industrial property the city has been eyeing for weeks likely does not contain a buried hazardous waste site, according to federal and municipal records released last week.

But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency still reports the existence of a waste site in the area, and neither federal nor state officials have been able to produce records showing exactly where the site is or what it contains.

Mayor Don Kyle said Wednesday he was pleased to hear that the property, owned by General Electric Co. and adjacent to Point Mallard Park, likely does not contain waste. But he also said he was not surprised.

“I wasn’t going to worry about that too much because I know GE will do a good job checking the property before they sell it,” he said. “They’re already out there boring samples to make sure it’s environmentally sound.”

Independent testing

In addition, Kyle said, he has no doubt testing would be accurate because GE is using independent contractors.

“We will know if there’s anything else to be concerned about, but we don’t expect anything at this time,” he said.

In October, the Decatur City Council
unanimously approved a measure to offer up to $1.8 million for the GE property.

City officials say purchasing the vacant property — one of the last remaining waterfront sites in Decatur — will enable them to control its development and ensure what goes there does not interfere with the nearby park.

At first, EPA records showed the property could contain potentially dangerous pollutants associated with unknown wastes buried in the area in 1973.

Unknown wastes

According to EPA, a former owner of the property, Fedders Corp., accumulated unknown wastes on a 2-acre site about 100 yards from the original plant for about 20 years.

Fedders manufactured air-conditioning components there from 1953 to 1973.

Before selling the property to GE, Fedders officials obtained a permit to burn the waste and buried what was left in 10-foot-deep pits.

The permit did not identify the substance.

“I guess it was just from whatever they were doing out there,” said Laura Niles, an EPA spokeswoman.

After the burn, records for the site are scarce. It was listed with the EPA’s Superfund Information System from 1980 to 1991, when it was apparently passed to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

The EPA’s Superfund program is designed to help EPA and the public identify and clean up hazardous-waste sites.

While EPA records show the state participated in at least two corrective or monitoring actions in 1985 and 1991, ADEM has been unable to produce any records for the site a full month after they were requested.

“I just never got in touch with the right guy in our land division that knew anything about this,” said ADEM Public Relations Director Jerome Hand before directing The Daily to resubmit its request for documents in writing to another office.

Whatever the site contains, one thing is clear. It is unlikely included in the property GE is selling.

Accurate surveys showing exactly what GE plans to sell were not available last month.

Acres for sale

GE officials originally advertised they were selling 44 acres, but they requested just 35 acres be subdivided for the sale. That number was later revised to 42 acres.

According to the latest survey, which The Daily obtained from the city last week, the estimated location of the waste area is well outside the property being sold.

GE officials never responded to requests for comment on the matter, and a spokesman for Harbert Realty Services, which is marketing the property for GE, declined to release a survey of the property.

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