Remnants of buildings left near where a manufactured gas plant once sat are the only reminders of the possible ground contamination around the area. City and WG&L officials are under an order from the EPD to start cleanup efforts at the site by Sept. 1.
Albany, Ga. - A manufactured gas plant that once provided heat and electricity for Albany during the early part of the 20th century could end up costing the taxpayers and ratepayers of the city millions to clean up.
The Environmental Protection Division of Georgia is demanding that the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission and the city of Albany begin exploratory digging on the site of the utility's former manufactured gas plant off Society Avenue to see how much toxic tar has leached into the ground.
Friday, WG&L asked the joint longterm financial planning committee for $750,000 in MEAG trust funds to jump start the digging process.
EPD is demanding that digging start by Sept. 1.
Still, the two city commissioners who sit on the LTFPC questioned how WG&L let the plant cleanup situation get to this point without sharing information with anyone with the city, who, under the city charter is the legal entity who could be sued by the EPD regardless of WG&L's involvement.
"If ultimately the city was going to be responsible we should've been brought in a long time ago," Langstaff said.
Keith Gooden, WG&L's chief engineer, said that City Attorney Nathan Davis was notified by the EPD of the problem while doing research on Radiator Shop on the East Side of the river as early as 2002.
Built in 1912, the plant was decommissioned in 1948 and has sat dormant until most of it was demolished decades later. The site still sits mostly unused except for a few locked buildings.
Langstaff and Tommie Postell, the other city commissioner on the board and the chairman of the LTFPC, both questioned WG&L officials over the decision to accepted a $150,000 settlement from Travelers Insurance company, when cleanup estimates top $5 million.
"Surely someone knew that if you accepted a settlement, you let the insurance company off the hook," Langstaff said. "Maybe the city commission didn't want to let Traveler's off the hook. You've really taken away a lot of our discretion."
Postell put it more bluntly.
"You've nursed this baby for decades and now you've come to us for an abortion," Postell said.
Langstaff has motioned to have a special called meeting added to Tuesday's city commission work session to allow the city commission to decide whether the city should take over responsibility for cleanup on the site or to allow WG&L to continue the work.
The actual price of the work that will need to be done won't really be known until the digging starts, Gooden said.
"We'll know more once the digging starts. The whole bottom line is how much has gotten into the water and we won't know that until we get into it," Gooden said.