COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- On Columbus’s Northside, the old Kerr McGee plant still stands tall. Now, environmental leaders are setting an amount on cleaning it up.
“At the present time, the $67.9 million is specifically for clean up only. It’s not for buyout of homes. And at the present time the 2 agencies will get together and come up with some language as to, from the mayor’s office and the city of Columbus as to what we can say to citizens concerning the 67.9 million and how it will be used,” said Columbus Mayor Robert Smith.
The figure was released after Andarko, the parent company of Tronox and Kerr McGee finalized a $5 billion settlement with the justice department. Part of that money goes to what is now a federal Superfund site in Columbus.
Medical experts aren’t willing to link creosote from the plant with health problems. But Pastor Steve Jamison, who has sued for damages and dogged clean up for years, says he sees the effects everyday.
“Although the 67 million will be greatly appreciated, it won’t be enough. We’re having about a cancer a month death in that community. That’s a lot of people dying. Every month somebody dies of cancer in that community. So we’d like to see the community moved out of there and the threat taken away,” said Jamison.
Jamison hopes the Environmental Protection Agency re-evaluates the amount for the sake of those living there.
” We have contacted other companies to come in and using it for a solar farm. It’s perfect. We believe those houses should be torn down, moved out. And the funds, the portion of the funds from the solar farm be put into a medical remediation fund for those people who have ailments that are consistent with the ailments that creosote causes,” said Jamison.
Right now there’s no timetable on when clean up efforts might begin. Leaders from EPA will have to do a thorough assessment of the site and hold public hearings about possible plans. The whole process could take 10 years to complete.
But city leaders say it’s at least a step forward for about 20 city blocks.