COLUMBUS,Miss.(WCBI)—For decades the people who lived around the old Kerr McGee plant in Columbus have been fighting for funds to clean up their neighborhood.
Today, there is real progress. The problem began with Creosote. It has a tar-like smell and is used to keep wood from rotting. At the old plant, it was used on railroad ties, cross switches and timber.
The chemical mix also seeped into the soil over the years. Cleanup is now complete on the second phase of the site.
“It all started right here at the former Kerr McGee Chemical corporation site where a chemical was discovered to be leaving a major impact on the areas. Now, the city is one step closer to correcting the issue,”said WCBI News Reporter Victoria Bailey.
“This ditch was really bad. Trees growing up and we don’t like to see it. It’s nasty and we didn’t like that,”said Seventh Avenue Resident Willie Riley.
It’s taken years to see the difference. Funding was slow, held up by court cases.
Tuesday Columbus City leaders and residents got to look at the newly completed Seventh Avenue Project.
” The first thing we did was come in to investigate where the creosote was so we had to come in and do sampling then we came in and we did air monitoring while we were doing our work to make sure the residents were protected while we were doing the excavation as the creosote was excavated we put it in lined trucks so that it could go to a proper landfill. We also had some tanks here to remove any water that might be in the ditches,”said Environmental Program Director Laurie Gorton.
Ninty percent of the project team consisted of local, minority-owned contractors and laborers.
Gorton says it’s definitely a team effort when ensuring the community’s safety.
“One of the main things we wanted to do was to prevent the creosote from moving in the ditches and also down toward the creek but one of the other dangers of the creosote when it’s in the ground it will bleed chemicals into the ground water over time,”said Gorton.
Team members involved with the project say it’s nice to highlight the good things taking place in the city.
” Well you know most of the times you have some nay sayers who are always saying that there is no progress going on in the city and around the city and this project here is another aspect to show that there are things that’s going on within the city to improve certain areas,”said Columbus Mayor Robert Smith.
Ground water assessment Division Director
“This is great to be able to have a portion of this project complete and be able to provide the community a safer place for them to grow up in and their kids to play,”said ground water assessment division director Lynn Chambers.
“Mayor Smith adds another clean up project for the site is scheduled to start mid-summer 2017″said Bailey.
Though the corporation shut down in the early 2000’s the full funding from the settlement wasn’t in place with the trust until 2015.
The Seventh Avenue Box Culvert Project was completed ahead of schedule and below the original 2.8 million dollar budget.