MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A massive, 50-block area of downtown, designated for decades as the Capital City Plume Superfund Site because of contamination, is being removed from the EPA’s List of National Priorities, or NPL.
The move is being hailed by state and local officials, as the decision means the EPA no longer considers the area a public health threat worthy of priority status because it’s satisfied with work and oversight by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
The EPA and ADEM, as well as a number of government and business groups have worked for more than 20 years to monitor and clean contaminated groundwater and soil downtown through a variety of means.
The probe started with soil investigations as far back as 1993. Authorities eventually found dry cleaning solvents, cleaning agents and degreasers in groundwater under the downtown area, including in two city wells. The area was successfully proposed for the EPA’s priority list in 2000.
In 2012, the city, county, state, Montgomery Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board, the Montgomery Advertiser, Standard Roofing of Montgomery and other businesses formed the Downtown Environmental Alliance to work with the EPA and ADEM to address remaining needs.
ADEM Director Lance LeFleur called it “validation of all the hard work by many parties...over many years to address and resolve a real environmental challenge."
Montgomery’s downtown has already undergone an economic resurgence with hotels, museums, new retail shops and the baseball stadium in recent years. “Now, this area of downtown Montgomery that has already seen significant redevelopment and reuse can blossom even more,” LeFleur added.
“This announcement charts a path forward for our community and is essential to our vision for a stronger, more vibrant downtown core,” Montgomery Mayor Reed said. "Moving forward, we are committed to continue building on this success as we expand economic opportunity and progress in Montgomery.”
LeFleur also credited former Mayor Todd Strange, saying “we wouldn’t be where we are today” without his efforts and those of the Alliance “who made a commitment to work with ADEM and the EPA to turn what could have been a disastrous, long-term impediment for the city into a model of cooperation among regional leaders.”
“This shows what can be accomplished when we all get on the same page,” Strange said. “The hard work paid off. The evidence is a downtown area that has drawn numerous redevelopment projects and is now the entertainment hub for the region.”
The NPL includes the nation’s sites with the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions.
While the decision to remove Montgomery was part of a larger decision by the EPA that involved adding six other Superfund sites to its priority list, as well as proposals on four others, ADEM added none of the other 10 sites are in Alabama.