Taxpayers left cleaning up lead contamination - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Taxpayers left cleaning up lead contamination

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June 13, 2006

Albany - Lead contamination on city of Albany property will cost taxpayers at least one million dollars. Soil tests found dangerous levels of lead under what used to be an old radiator shop just west of the Flint River on Broad Avenue. The city took over ownership of the property in 2002, knowing it was likely contaminated. Now, the EPD says the City must clean up the site by February 15th or face hefty fines.    

The old radiator shop on West Broad was a real eyesore when a Florida company gave the land to the City of Albany in 2002. That company bought the property at a tax auction in 1998, hoping to make a profit but had no luck.

"We needed that property to move forward with the revitalization of downtown," said Commissioner Bo Dorough.

To clean up the property, Commissioner Bo Dorough said the City agreed to take over the deed even though there were concerns the property was contaminated. Dorough said the former city attorney said the company signed a contract to perform what's called a phase two environmental study and pay for any clean up in excess of $100,000.

"The phase two showed no significant contamination," said Dorough. But that definitely wasn't the case.

In fact, significant levels of lead were found during a later soil study six feet below the surface. Now the EPD is requiring the city clean up the contamination by February 15th at a cost of $1-million. As for the "clean-up" contract commissioners thought the former property owner agreed to, it was never actually signed.

"Our only option is to comply," said City Manager Alfred Lott.

Alfred Lott says the City must use sales tax money, allocated for Riverfront Park additions, to pay for the decontamination of the site. There's no word yet on which part of the Riverfront Park project will be cut.

"The real threat or concern I have right now is if we get down there and dig up this contamination and find more. Then we'll have to spend even more money. This could escalate, no doubt," said Lott. 

An attempt to get rid of an eyesore will forever be a sore spot for commissioners who must now use taxpayers money to fix a big mistake.  

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