ADEM’s remediation work leads to Montgomery Superfund site coming off EPA priorities list
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that the Capital City Plume Superfund Site located in Montgomery will no longer be included on the National Priorities List (NPL).
This comes after two decades of work by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), the EPA and an alliance of governmental and business groups to identify, monitor and clean up contaminated groundwater and soil in a 50-block area of downtown.
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.
ADEM began investigating a report of soil contamination in downtown Montgomery back in 1993. Subsequent investigations found several zones of contaminated groundwater under the downtown area, including contamination in two city wells. Contaminants detected were volatile organic compounds, including various forms of dry-cleaning solvents, cleaning agents and degreasers. A chemical wholesaler, auto repair shops and dry cleaners were identified as possible sources.
The site was formally proposed for listing on the NPL in 2000.
Remediation actions taken since then included emergency soil excavation; groundwater monitoring; abandonment of all affected public water supply wells and closing all private wells in the area; planting trees that help remove contaminants; use of vapor barriers in some buildings; and implementing ordinances and other land-use rules to prevent groundwater use and future potential vapor intrusion risks.
In 2012, the Downtown Environmental Alliance was formed to work with the EPA and ADEM to develop an action plan and agreement to address remaining remediation needs. The alliance, comprised of public and private sector partners, also agreed to reimburse the EPA for the costs of the federal agency’s involvement with the Montgomery site.
ADEM, through an agreement with the EPA, has overseen site assessment and remediation since 2015.
An announcement last week formally confirms that the EPA is satisfied with the remediation work and the oversight by ADEM and no longer considers the site a public health threat worthy of priority status. It could also very well give a further boost to downtown economic revitalization, which in recent years has seen the construction of a minor league baseball park, riverfront park, amphitheater, black history museums, multiple hotels and entertainment district.
“This is validation of all the hard work by many parties – city, county, state, federal and business entities – over many years to address and resolve a real environmental challenge,” stated ADEM Director Lance LeFleur on Wednesday. “It couldn’t have happened without all the parties deciding we needed a plan to tackle the problem and agreeing to work together to carry it out. Now, this area of downtown Montgomery that has already seen significant redevelopment and reuse can blossom even more.”
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the efforts of former Mayor Todd Strange and other members 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,” LeFleur added.
Strange in a statement expressed gratitude for the removal of the proposed NPL listing.
“This shows what can be accomplished when we all get on the same page,” the former mayor commented. “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.”
Current Mayor Steven Reed echoed those sentiments in a statement of his own.
“This announcement charts a path forward for our community and is essential to our vision for a stronger, more vibrant downtown core,” Reed said. “We commend the collaboration and steady resolve of the Alliance, ADEM, the EPA and everyone involved in doing what is right for our city and our region. Moving forward, we are committed to continue building on this success as we expand economic opportunity and progress in Montgomery.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn