Meetings may be key for Koppers

Published: Friday, January 21, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 10:11 p.m.
It's starting to sound like a broken record.
More than 20 years after federal officials classified the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site as one of the nation's most polluted dumping grounds, cleanup experts remain divided on how to protect Gainesville's drinking water from toxic wood-treating chemicals.
But officials with Alachua County and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta say a series of closed-door meetings - with the most recent in Gainesville on Wednesday - could help turn the tide on the region's most persistent pollution problem.
According to EPA site manager Amy Williams, the EPA has requested that additional wells be drilled to help paint a more precise picture of contamination beneath the 170-acre property.
"We don't have enough data," Williams said in a telephone interview from her office in Atlanta Thursday.
"There's a potential threat to the drinking water" from the site, but limited information has made it impossible to know how severe the threat is, she said.
Located near NW 23rd Avenue and N. Main Street, the Cabot-Koppers site sits roughly two miles southwest of Gainesville's Murphree Wellfield. The site has been used by various wood-treating companies since the 1940s and, in 1983, was listed as a Superfund priority by the EPA.
In recent months, Gainesville Regional Utilities has said that arsenic, creosote and other toxins in the Floridan Aquifer below the property could contaminate city wells, and should be removed.
But Beazer East Inc., a Pittsburgh-based environmental firm that briefly owned the Koppers' portion of the property, has disagreed with GRU's interpretations. On Tuesday, a Beazer official said for the first time that city wells may never be impacted by the Koppers site.
Despite the difference of opinions, the EPA says it's not going to gamble on who may be right. Williams said information gleaned from the additional monitoring wells will help plan future cleanup actions.
Greg Bruno can be reached at (352) 374-5026.

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