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Risks being evaluated at contaminated former industrial site

Environmental assessments are expected to be finished next year at the contaminated site of a former wood treating facility in eastern Mississippi.

Experts will evaluate potential health risks for people who might use the former Kerr-McGee site in the future, after the site is cleaned, the Meridian Star reported.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and representatives of a Multistate Trust held public information session about the site Wednesday in Meridian.

Lauri Gorton, director of environmental programs for the trust, said chemicals that were used to preserve wood have been found in the site’s soil and groundwater.

“Most of that contamination is in the old process areas, toward the middle of the site,” Gorton said. “We are going to be moving now into the next phase of doing risk assessments and determining what cleanup activities are necessary.”

Wood treating operations began at the site in 1924, according to a fact sheet distributed at the meeting. In 1964, Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp. bought the facility, operated it until 1986, and then dismantled it. In 2005, Kerr-McGee transferred the Meridian facility into a new company, Tronox, which filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

A court appointed the Multistate Trust to assume responsibility and cleanup for the facility, as part of the Tronox federal bankruptcy settlement, Gorton said.

Field teams collected 677 samples from the soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater and pore water, according to the presentation.

The site is fenced off and while a small area of contamination has spread to an adjacent vacant property, the general public is not exposed to the contamination, Gorton said.

The 93-acre (38-hectare) facility is south of Interstate 20.

Don Rogers, who said he has an interest in a company that owns property nearby, attended the meeting to learn about the results of the environmental tests and any potential impacts.

“If they have a problem on this property … I don’t want that problem moving over on us,” Rogers said.

Bill Hannah, president and CEO of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, attended the area is “a great site for something.”

“We’re trying to determine what that is and the schedule for that, the timeframe for that, and the cost of that. … It may be premature to suggest anything that it could be,” Hannah said.

The trust is also responsible for cleanup of the former Kerr-McGee site in Columbus, which is part of the EPA’s Superfund program, Gorton said.

The Superfund program allows the EPA to clean up contaminated sites and forces responsible parties to either perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work, according to the EPA website.

Gorton said the Meridian facility did not meet the requirements for the Superfund program but is managed by the EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

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