Testing shows dioxins in industrial park

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, March 9, 2016

MMC Materials has backed out of a plan to build a facility on Manufacturers Boulevard following testing that showed dioxins in the ground at the site.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Garrick Combs said there was no question there would be dioxins present in the soil.

“It’s not as simple as if there’s contamination or there’s not,” Combs said. “There’s always degrees of testing. We know that Mississippi Wood Preserving and its successor companies operated out there before there were as stringent regulations as there are now. So we know that it’s always going to have a presence of dioxins in the soil. Have they lessened over time? Have they migrated? Have they moved anywhere? It’s about those questions more than if it has dioxins in the soil.”

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According to the EPA, dioxins can be a byproduct of certain chlorinated compounds.

“Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, and can interfere with hormones,” the EPA said.

The dioxins on Manufacturers Boulevard were created by the now defunct Escambia Wood Treating Company. The president, Charles Soule, settled with the EPA for $21,500 in 2002.

Combs said December’s testing showed detectable levels of dioxins, but they were generally low.

“You get into a gray area. Yeah, there’s dioxins there. They could be naturally occurring — probably not considering what company operated out there. The next question is, does it pass a threshold that requires some attention? Mostly the answer is no, but if you have a company that knows that dioxins are present, sometimes it’s just not worth a company purchasing that property even if it requires no cleanup,” he said.

Combs said the dioxins have concentrated on the north end of Manufacturers Boulevard, which he said is a location with a lot of storm drainage. Because of this drainage, Combs said there isn’t much land in the contaminated area that would be otherwise marketable. The MMC Materials deal was for only seven acres.

Despite this, there is a chance that the area will be remediated in the future. Federal grants may be available for if remediation is appropriate.

“We’ll basically take their (Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality) recommendation on whether or not we should try to secure some money and do some remediation or whether we should just leave it as it is,” Combs said.

MDEQ groundwater assessment and remediation division chief Trey Hess said there were essentially two methods for remediating a site. They could either dig up the soil and move it to an approved disposal facility, or they could cap it with asphalt, clay or other materials. For industrial areas like Manufacturers Boulevard, Hess said capping it was generally the better option.

“About 10 or 12 years ago, there was a spec building that we worked on in Brookhaven right next to the Escambia facility,” Hess said. “The county basically capped it and left it in place. It’s almost like entombing it there. As long as that capped area remains capped, and we typically put some kind of deed restriction on that property, then it’s protected.”