Cleanup of Pensacola’s American Creosote Works Superfund site — under environmental remediation since the early 1980s — could be completed by 2021, EPA officials said Wednesday.
Located in the city’s Sanders Beach neighborhood, the 18-acre site was home for nearly 80 years to a wood treatment plant. There, wooden utility poles were impregnated with preservatives like creosote and later pentachlorophenol, both of which were later found to have carcinogenic properties. Wastewater from the process was dumped into a pair of unlined pits on the site, which then fed untreated into Pensacola Bay via two drainage ditches.
Unable to comply with state and federal environmental regulations, the plant closed in late 1981. By 1983, the property was designated as a Superfund site by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Marred by delays and disagreements between federal and state agencies, cleanup of the site’s contaminated soil and groundwater has stretched on for more than three decade, with approximately $30 million invested into the cleanup so far.
But EPA project manager Peter Thorpe told residents Wednesday that the end is in sight.
This fall, officials will finalize what’s called a site-wide record of decision, which will detail the methods and technologies the EPA will use to remediate the different areas of the Superfund site, as well as contaminated soil at nearby homes. Specifics and logistical details would then be worked out during 2018, with work set to begin on the final phase of remediation by early 2019. The actual cleanup work would take about two years, wrapping up by July 2021.
Of course, that timeline is dependent upon funding, and with President Trump’s proposed budget calling for a 31 percent reduction in the EPA’s funding, it’s far from guaranteed.
One thing, however, is fairly certain: the final phase of cleanup will be expensive, costing more than double what’s been spent to date. The proposed plan includes the construction of an underground concrete box around the most heavily-contaminated soil and groundwater, at the former creosote dipping pits on the western end of the site. Other areas would be cleaned up with thermal and chemical treatments, and soil from both the property and nearby residents’ yards would be dug up and buried within a capped liner onsite.
When all is said and done, the price tag will be about $64 million, Thorpe said.