July 13, 2008

Foothills Due to Finish Lead Cleanup Soon

By Megan Nichols, The Anniston Star, Ala.

Jul. 13--One facet of Anniston's environmental cleanup should be completed next week, officials said.

The Foothills Community Partnership has been working throughout Anniston, Oxford and Hobson City for the past 20 months testing properties for lead pollution and cleaning up contaminated properties.

The final property would be cleaned up early next week, weather permitting, said Foothills spokesman Tom Potts.

The Foothills Community Partnership represents companies that once produced foundry sand used as molds in pipe casting. For at least 50 years, the companies gave the sand, now known to have been contaminated with lead, to area residents who used it as fill in their yards. The dangers of foundry sand were unknown then, but lead is now known to cause neurological and other problems.

Potts said Foothills had sampled 4,175 properties and when finished will have removed contaminated dirt from 512 yards.

"It shows tremendous progress," said Anniston Mayor Chip Howell. "Anniston has been very aggressive as an industrial community to respond to those issues as discovered. There is not a New South city that has not been touched by environmental issues, and Anniston will be one of the first to have them behind us."

Anniston also has been plagued by polychlorinated biphenyl pollution. PCBs, a suspected carcinogen, were produced by the Monsanto from 1929 to 1971 in west Anniston. Rain runoff carried PCBs that escaped the plant through drainage ditches to Snow Creek, which flows into Choccolocco Creek. The chemical also settled in the yards of many homes near the plant.

Solutia was spun off by Monsanto in 1997 and assumed the company's liability for the contamination when it took over the plant. Pharmacia Corp., which merged with the former Monsanto Co., also is responsible for Anniston's PCB cleanup.

Howell said that with lead remediation ending, PCB cleanup ongoing and the destruction of chemical weapons at Anniston's weapons incinerator on track for completion in the next several years, the city is headed in the right direction.

"This will certainly help remove that moniker of 'Toxic Town USA,' " he said.

Potts said the Foothills presence will remain in Anniston for at least the next several months, possibly until the end of the year.

He said that while the group is finishing with lead removal -- its stated goal -- it still plans to clean up one more area of Anniston, Carter Street.

While working on lead remediation, Potts said, Foothills workers discovered a former dumping site for shredded automobile parts. He said the plan for cleanup, which includes demolishing some homes and moving contaminated soil to a central location on the street and capping it with a two-foot cover of clean soil, have been sent to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. He said the group is awaiting approval of the plan to begin that work.

David Baker, founder of the grassroots Community Against Pollution, said Foothills had not done enough outreach in the community and should not be already finishing.

Potts said Foothills has had numerous public meetings and advertising programs to ensure the public was aware of the remediation.

About Megan Nichols Megan Nichols covers the city of Anniston, Calhoun County government and the McClellan Joint Powers Authority. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama.


To see more of The Anniston Star or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.annistonstar.com/.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Anniston Star, Ala.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.