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One area of Navassa superfund site to move off priority list, another to undergo remediation

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 5:10 PM EDT
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NAVASSA, N.C. (WECT) - Part of a superfund site that could not be used for decades may soon be useful once again.

Community members learned today one area of the Navassa superfund property will be taken off the list for cleanup. Work to remediate another area should begin by the first of the new year.

Kerr-McGee wood treatment operations on the property decades ago contaminated the property with creosote. Since joining the EPA’s National Priority List in 2010, the plan was always to get the Navassa superfund site back in usable condition and open for community use. Today, that end is finally in sight.

“There’s been an agreement by the multistate trust to transfer some of the property to the town for use on the Moze Center — the Moze Heritage & Nature Park,” said Richard Elliott, a project manager for Greenfield Multistate Trust.

The Environmental Protection Agency tested the first zone for both commercial and residential use. Experts determined no cleanup was needed on that zone, referred to as Operable Unit 1 (OU1), so it is going to be available sooner than the second area, OU2.

While some areas go back to the town, other areas will be sold to developers. The process is already beginning with OU1 slated to be removed from the priority list by the fall. It won’t be long before OU2 follows suit.

“We are moving forward so we can get the cleanup going early next year or late this year,” said Todd Martin, another project manager for Greenfield Multistate Trust. “That’s actually a really straightforward cleanup. It’s likely to be an excavation and backfill with clean material.”

Project leaders will hold a meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the cleanup project with local contractors, hoping to help business in the community that has suffered because of the superfund site for over 40 years. At that meeting, they’ll discuss skill sets needed and how the multistate trust can support the contractors in getting the training needed to do the job if necessary.

“We’re actively working towards it and one of the things we can do right now for Operable Unit 2 — which is where the work is coming up next year — is focus on hiring locally and investing locally for the work,” said Claire Woods, the multistate trust’s director of environmental justice policies and programs. “OU2 is just one step. We’re going to keep going.”

Three meetings on Tuesday aim to answer questions about the site, including what comes next. The multistate trust says the land will soon go back to the community and only developers with their best interest in mind are welcome to buy when the time comes.

“We have these four concepts that we’ve developed and we have to go through the beneficiaries but here’s kind of what we’re looking for,” said Elliott. If you’re interested in doing something similar to this, stay tuned.”

Elliott says the four concepts they’re hoping to work from were built based on community feedback. They all have a few things in common: a recreational element, greenspace, a riverwalk and river access, along with some commercial and industrial areas. Elliott says they understand the community wants revenue and jobs wrapped up in one.

People who live in the area like Chris Graham are looking forward to what the future might bring to the area. He hopes it will help his community thrive and keep Navassa’s culture intact.

“We should be able to grow and thrive without the gentrification of the town,” said Graham, representing Navassa Economic and Environmental Redevelopment Corporation. “I’m excited to hear about the Gullah Geechee Heritage Center that is coming. That’s very exciting to me.”

Leaders with the multistate trust that owns the superfund site say that when remediation is done on the entire site and the time comes to sell, they’re planning on vetting potential buyers. They want to make sure plans for the site would fit in with what the community would like to see.

While progress is made on OU1 and OU2, other areas of the over 200-acre property are farther from that light at the end of the tunnel. Experts say areas with heavier contamination will need much more work before any development is made.

“Those areas in the southern marsh where we have groundwater contamination and creosote that extends quite deep,” said David Mattison, the Navassa project manager for NCDEQ. “We have to be realistic about the expectations that it will be returned, but the timeframe for that will be significant.”

Upcoming Superfund Site Community Meetings:

TUESDAY, JUNE 22: COMMUNITY MEETING – 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. (in-person and virtual)

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23: CONTRACTOR INFORMATION SESSION – 12-noon - 1:30 p.m. (in-person and virtual)

Join in-person events at the Navassa Community Center at 338 Main Street, Navassa, NC.

Join virtual events online or by phone:

  • ONLINE: Join through this Zoom link. Use meeting ID 946 584 8922 and passcode B8U7EX.
  • PHONE: Call (301) 715-8592. Use meeting ID 946 584 8922# and passcode 664564#.

For more information, contact Richard Elliott of the Multistate Trust at re@g-etg.com or (617) 953-1154 or Claire Woods of the Multistate Trust at cw@g-etg.com or (323) 204-6943.

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