Off-site Koppers cleanup expected to start in January

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 4:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 4:08 p.m.

The removal and replacement of contaminated soils from yards in the neighborhood directly west of the Koppers Superfund site is expected to begin in January.

Beazer East Inc., the company legally responsible for the cleanup of the polluted former wood treatment plant and affected off-site properties, said Thursday the process is expected to take one week per block, or a total of two to three months.

Where property owners give consent, crews will remove and replace one foot of soil and plant new landscaping in yards where lab tests have shown that dioxin is present above the state of Florida's clean-up threshold, which is seven parts per trillion.

Dioxin is a carcinogen present in pentachlorophenol, a wood preservative used to treat lumber at the plant from 1980 through 2000, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For nearly a century, the Cabot-Koppers wood treatment plant operated on property north of Northwest 23rd Avenue and east of Northwest Sixth Street. The eastern area of the site, or the former Cabot property, has already been redeveloped and includes a shopping center.

Based on lab tests of soil samples, the clean up is focused on the residential area north of Northwest 26th Avenue, south of Northwest 33rd Avenue and east of Northwest Sixth Street.

Greg Council with Tetra Tech, the contractor Beazer East has hired for the remediation, said 66 properties are currently eligible for cleanup based on lab tests of soil samples and another 24 are still under evaluation.

Beazer East plans to offer to pay for residents whose yards are excavated to stay in a hotel or motel for a week while work is conducted.

The Cabot-Koppers site has been on the federal Superfund list since 1983.

During a 1 p.m. presentation on the pending clean-up Thursday, Mitchell Brourman with Beazer East told a small crowd that the company was "sympathetic that this has been a long, drawn-out, complicated, convoluted process."

The clean-up plan that EPA and Beazer East have negotiated continues to stir local opposition. It does not include the purchase of homes with polluted yards in order to relocate residents. Beazer East also will be storing contaminated soils removed from off-site properties and from areas of the former Koppers plant on-site in an underground containment area.

At the early Thursday afternoon session, residents expressed concerns over that plan for the contaminated soils and the legal language in the access agreements they have to sign to have their properties cleaned.

Brourman said those agreements do not include a waiver of legal rights against Beazer East.

Alachua County and Gainesville officials have asked the EPA to require a more stringent clean-up plan that includes permanent relocation of residents.

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