Contamination sought around, in ‘spec’ building

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2003

Soil and water testing activities continued Wednesday asenvironmental services workers sought to the determine the level ofpossible contamination at the industrial speculative buildingsite.

Jay Ferris, with Hattiesburg-based Environmental ManagementServices, said crews started testing Tuesday on the five-acre sitealong West Manufacturer’s Boulevard. He reported good progress onthe testing, but did not know when the work would be finished.

“It all depends. It’s going steadily and we’ll see,” saidFerris, adding that crews have until Friday to complete theproject. “We’re actually a little ahead of schedule.”

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Tests are being done at 37 locations on the site, both insideand outside the speculative building. Initial soil test resultsshould be available by the end of next week, Ferris said.

“We’re also testing ground water,” he said. “That will beseveral weeks before those results are back.”

Testing teams are using all-terrain vehicles to get to varioussites on the property. For safety in case of any contamination,team members wear bright yellow environmental suits and carry airpacks with a 20-30 minute supply of oxygen, Ferris said.

“They rotate in every 20-30 minutes,” Ferris said about shiftchanges.

A section of West Manufacturer’s Boulevard is closed whiletesting activity is under way. Due to heat concerns, the testingwork is being done in the early to late morning hours.

“Heat stress is the biggest safety issue we have out here,”Ferris said.

The testing activity is being funded by the state Department ofEnvironmental Quality, said Chris Hawkins, with DEQ’s Office ofPollution Control. He said community officials are looking to sellthe speculative building and the testing is an important aspect ofthat activity.

“They’d like to not just have this sitting here,” Hawkins said.”Hopefully, everything will come up clean and they’ll be able touse the building as a warehouse or something like that.”

A minute amount of contamination was found on the western edgeof the property several years ago when the chamber tried to sellthe spec building. Hawkins said activity from the now-defunctEscambia Wood Treatment Plant gave cause to investigate theproperty.

If contamination is found, Hawkins said community officialswould be contacted and a decision on what remediation efforts, ifany, would be taken.

“That’s a decision that’s a few steps down the process at thispoint,” Ferris added.

Hawkins said the federal Brownfields program provides assistanceto help redevelop lightly-contaminated areas so that they may beused for industrial and economic development activities again.

“We’re hoping for a clean building, but we won’t know that untilthe test results come back,” Hawkins said.