Fort Valley receives accolades for Woolfolk cleanup

FORT VALLEY — Lawrence Statham has lived near the Woolfolk chemical site for nearly 25 years.

Living on Preston Street, the contaminated former pesticide site is virtually in his backyard.

Statham is a member of the Woolfolk Citizens Response Group, which has worked as part of a group to remediate and revitalize the site. He and dozens of other community members were acknowledged during a Thursday ceremony when the city received the Region 4 Excellence in Site Reuse Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA also announced the site received $1.8 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The funding will be used to speed up cleanup of the site while also creating jobs.

“It’s good for the community and the future,” Statham said. “We want to see something nice come from it.”

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. Woolfolk was declared a Superfund site in 1990 after years of chemical dumping 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.

Frank Hill, division director for the EPA Superfund’s Region 4, said Fort Valley is being commended for its efforts to revitalize the site.

“It’s easy for us to come in, dig it up, cover it up and go home,” Hill said of the site.

However, with the assistance of government agencies, officials and residents, Hill said the Woolfolk cleanup project ventured onto a path of redevelopment.

In the late 1990s, the city renovated the Troutman House that now houses the Downtown Development Authority as well as the Peach County Chamber of Commerce. The city also built the Thomas Edison Library.

“It has had a positive impact on the surrounding community,” Hill said of the early revitalization efforts.

Mayor John Stumbo said once the remediation is complete, more redevelopment likely will take place, including the creation of an archive storage space for local governments and city recreation. He also said the site is being looked at for a possible police and fire training area.

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