Toxic cleanup site in Fort Valley to get federal funding

Cleanup of Fort Valley’s most toxic site could speed up now that the city has learned it will receive $5 million in federal stimulus money.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the funding this week for the Woolfolk Superfund site, according to an agency news release.

The site is a 31-acre area that was deemed a Superfund site because of the pesticides and chemicals dumped there by manufacturers. Cleanup of the site, which has cost about $27 million since October 2004, is expected to be completed within the next year. The new funding is part of $600 million that Congress approved for the federal Superfund program.

The Superfund program was developed in 1980 to clean up sites containing hazardous waste that pose health and environmental threats. The Woolfolk site was declared a Superfund site in 1990 after years of harmful chemicals being dumped there.

Until 1999, SureCo Inc. formulated, packaged and warehoused various pesticides used primarily in the lawn and garden market and by peach growers, according to an EPA fact sheet about the Woolfolk site.

One of the site’s previous owners, Canadyne, which operated the facility from 1977 through 1984, was ordered to perform a removal action. The company demolished lead arsenate buildings, buried some material and built a cap over the contaminated land.

Charles King, EPA’s Woolfolk project manager, said Thursday the $5 million will be used to remove and treat contaminated soil.

“We will save jobs currently out here and bring in a few more jobs, which will possibly expedite the process,” King said.

King said the stimulus money also could allow him to free up other money for disposal of the contaminated soil.

Mayor John Stumbo said the stimulus announcement came as a pleasant surprise and indicates that the site remediation finally could come to an end.

The city has been working hard on its redevelopment plans for the area. Last month, the Fort Valley City Council adopted a redevelopment plan for the area that focused on bringing business to the Fort Valley State University area, the Woolfolk site and to downtown. It also approved the creation of enterprise zones to help spur economic development. In those zones, local government provides tax incentives to businesses if they locate there. The Woolfolk site is in the designated opportunity zone.

In the first year, the city would allow for 100 percent tax exemption for a business that locates there. In the second year, 75 percent of the taxes would be exempted. In the third year, 25 percent of the taxes would be abated.

The businesses would have to make their full tax payment after that, officials said.

Stumbo said he plans to look at stimulus dollars for the area’s redevelopment. But first it must be cleaned, and Stumbo said the stimulus money plays an important role in making that happen.

“This could end this 12-year process,” said Stumbo, who has dealt with the Woolfolk site since taking office in 1998.

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-3109, extension 236.