City doesn't want to be liable for WG&L without a say-so - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City doesn't want to be liable for WG&L without a say-so

August 25, 2006

Albany - One Albany City Commissioner says pending litigation is one reason the city is considering taking over management of Albany Water Gas and Light. We first told you Thursday that a proposed ordinance would give city commissioners total control over WG&L.

There are two lawsuits against the city for age and race discrimination that allegedly occurred at Water, Gas and Light.  But there's another concern, about an old Manufactured gas plant that could create another costly situation.  One either the city or WG&L, and ultimately the citizens will have to foot the bill for.  

This is where the old Manufactured gas plant or MGP once stood, in the 900 Block of Front Street, near Society Avenue. Today, there's not much to see here, but it's what can't be seen that could cause problems, for the city and the utility.   Commissioner Bob Langstaff says, "It had been brought to my attention that Water, Gas and Light General Manager had received correspondence from EPD and was advised by the city attorney to let the city commission know about it, and we had not heard about it."

Commissioner Langstaff says that letter is what broke the camel's back. He doesn't want the city to be liable for yet another law suit, or have to pay for cleanup on another project.  He says, "There not an independent authority recognized by the state, so that their liability is their own. Their liability is our liability."

The city already has to pay close to a million dollars to clean up the site of a former radiator shop. The cleanup at the MGP, could cost a lot more.   Langstaff says, "The question is who's going to pay for it, who's going to do the risk management of it? Who's going to try and minimize the liability?"

WG&L Assistant General Manager and Operations Manager Keith Goodin says WG&L is already working on taking care of the cleanup. He says there is at least a verbal agreement that WG&L will pay for the cleanup which could cost anywhere from $2 to $15 Million, and take up to five years to complete.

But the plans haven't been finalized yet. Goodin says WG&L is making a status compliance report to submit to EPD about the process.

Langstaff says the commissioners, both for the city and WG&L also need to know the status of the cleanup, other litigation and what's going on within the walls of the utility.   He says, "I want to make sure that I'm not exposing the taxpayers to unnecessary liability. That's what I want to do. I think I owe it to the taxpayers to make sure that I'm limiting their risk as much as possible."

The property deed for the Manufactured Gas Plant is under the City of Albany.  It's important to note the city is not being sued or even forced to clean up the contaminated property, but to keep it from getting to the point, WG&L is moving forward with cleanup.

When the plant was built in 1912, the coal-burning process was the main source of energy, not only in Albany, but throughout the country. The cleanup is for the byproduct left behind, a tar like material that seeped into the ground. Similar cleanups are taking place in Waycross, Brunswick, Macon, Athens, and Augusta.

Commissioner Langstaff says the move would make WG&L's general manager more accountable.

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