Cleanup of the heavily-polluted American Creosote Works Superfund site in Pensacola is moving forward, with officials now saying remediation efforts could be completed sometime in 2019.
The 18-acre ACW site, located in Pensacola’s Sanders Beach neighborhood, operated as a wood preserving plant from 1902 until 1981. The plant used creosote and later pentachlorophenol to treat lumber in unlined ponds, chemicals from which seeped into groundwater and discharged into Pensacola Bay, located just 600 yards from the site.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been working at the site for more than 30 years, completing a number of remediation efforts, but much of the remediation work has been repeatedly delayed by bureaucratic hurdles. Now, it looks like an end may be in sight. EPA officials told Sanders Beach residents on Monday that remediation of a contaminated ditch on the Pensacola Yacht Club’s property would begin next month, with a final two-year remediation effort tentatively set to begin next fall.
The EPA’s current remediation plan calls for contaminated soil from surrounding properties to be excavated and relocated to the ACW site, where they would be capped with clay and clean soil. Peter Thorpe, the EPA’s project manager, said Monday that a five-year review of the site would be completed by September, with a site-wide “record of decision” expected this fall. In EPA parlance, records of decision are the public documents which detail a remediation plan for a contaminated site. Several records of decision have been released for different aspects or “operating units” of the ACW site dating back to 1985, but the site-wide document would pave the way for a final remediation plan to move forward.
It’s unclear what, if any, redevelopment might take place at the site once cleanup efforts have been completed. Neither the city nor the federal government owns the property, which is bisected by railroad right-of-way. The property is still listed under the ownership of American Creosote Works, Inc., which went bankrupt in the 1980s, and efforts to find a responsible party have yielded nothing.
Nonetheless, city officials did move forward with the development of a reuse plan for the site in 2003, which envisions the bulk of the property being dedicated as park and open space, with potential commercial development along the site’s northern edge. The 2003 plan also called for the creation of a Westside Gateway Redevelopment District and the reconstruction of Main Street as a western gateway for downtown Pensacola. Neighborhood residents generally support the reuse plan, but with remediation efforts ongoing, the plan remains strictly conceptual. No local funds have been budgeted to implement any of the plan’s recommendations, and as Thorpe stressed Monday, no EPA funds can be used for redevelopment.