During his weekly media briefing on Thursday, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange announce that the city has taken the initial step in the process to bring the Capital City Plume under local authority oversight.
Mayor Strange says the Downtown Alliance group, comprised of the City of Montgomery, Montgomery County, Montgomery Water Works and Sewer Board, the State of Alabama and the Advertiser Company, has been working with federal and state authorities to avoid the downtown area's placement on the National Priorities "Superfund" list.
"This is huge news for our community since after more than 20 years, local authorities have an opportunity to take a targeted approach to address the site," Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said. "We appreciate the willingness of EPA to consider working with us."
The Alliance group is currently in the process of creating the documents that would pave the way for the transfer of the investigation to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). These proposed agreements would require the Alliance to provide repayment for the work provided by the Environmental Protection Agency over the last 20 years, approximately $2.6 million. The group will also be responsible to complete the investigation and appropriate remediation at the worksite.
Today represents another key step in the process of moving toward a deferral of the Capitol City Plume site, and the upcoming public comment period will provide an opportunity for citizens and concerned parties to be a part of this ongoing process," said EPA Region 4 Administrator Heather McTeer Toney. "EPA looks forward to ensuring that the protection of human health and the environment is achieved in the community," she added. "This collaboration between the City, the Alliance, ADEM and EPA is an example of how federal, state, and local entities, along with the private sector, can work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals, resolve community issues, and achieve a sustainable future."
Officials do say however, that prior to a deferral, the United States EPA must facilitate a public review and comment period, scheduled for July.
"Even though we believe there is no health threat to our citizens, we understand there is a federal process that was started when the downtown area was proposed for listing in 2000," Montgomery County Commission Chair Elton Dean said. "The listing would be detrimental to economic development and the investment our citizens have made to revitalize Montgomery and the Voting Rights Trail. However, if we handle it correctly, this is the process that could get the site de-proposed from the Superfund."
The city discovered the area known as the Capital City Plume in 1993. The area of groundwater contains low levels of chemicals associated with cleaning solvents and petroleum products common in urban environments. This groundwater is not a safety risk to citizens. The public water supply wells in the area were closed by the Water and Sewer Board nearly a decade ago. The city also took steps to impose an ordinance in 2003 that prohibited the drilling of any new downtown wells.