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A day after visiting Pensacola’s American Creosote Works Superfund site, Rep. Matt Gaetz called the timing of an Environmental Protection Agency announcement regarding the site “interesting.”

Just minutes before Gaetz’s Thursday event was scheduled to begin, EPA project manager Peter Thorpe sent out an email announcing a public meeting to discuss the proposed cleanup plan for the site’s final remediation phase. That meeting is set for Wednesday, April 26 beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Sanders Beach-Corinne Jones Community Center, located at 913 South I Street.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks with residents at the American Creosote Works Superfund site in Pensacola. (Derek Cosson/The Pulse)

Gaetz in February introduced H.R. 861, a bill that would abolish the agency, which has overseen the cleanup at the site since 1983.

“This site has been on the Superfund list for 34 years and the only thing the EPA has managed to complete on the project is putting up a fence around it,” Gaetz said Friday. “In addition to the interesting timing of the EPA’s statement, I would like to point out that the EPA has completed zero phases of cleanup on this site after 34 years, yet is giving the public exactly six days’ notice of the meeting.”

Gaetz said that regardless of what prompted the EPA’s announcement, it’s “about time that some kind of forward movement take place” at the contaminated site.

“If my visit to the ACW site is indeed what prompted the unexpected call to action on the part of the EPA, I am certainly grateful that I was able to highlight the need for attention to this long-forgotten blight in our community,” Gaetz said. “However, I am appalled that it takes the threat of abolishing the agency and a visit from a Congressman to the site for the EPA to do its job, and this is precisely the type of incompetence that motivated me to file the bill in February.”

Gaetz’s day-long tour through the Pensacola area Thursday included two back-to-back “environmental listening tour” events that Gaetz says were intended to contrast the way federal and state agencies manage cleanup of contaminated sites. After visiting the ACW Superfund site, Gaetz held a second event at Nick’s Boathouse, a downtown Pensacola restaurant which occupies a site remediated under Florida’s Brownfield Redevelopment Program.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) holds a “listening tour” event at Nick’s Boathouse in Pensacola. (Derek Cosson/The Pulse)

Under state and federal law, brownfield sites are typically much less contaminated than Superfund sites, much less expensive to address, much less complicated by regulatory and legal constraints.

Nonetheless, Gaetz said the difference between the two sites illustrates the “stark contrast between the management and success of the two different sites.”

“Where once a contaminated site stood, now a bustling waterfront development exists and provides jobs to countless members of the community in Pensacola,” Gaetz said, referring to Nick’s Boathouse.

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