- Associated Press - Saturday, February 4, 2017

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Plans to clean up and reuse a polluted 12-acre former industrial site in Tennessee appear unfazed by the uncertainty now surrounding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Chattanooga officials recently announced a plan to spend up to $1.5 million to finish tearing down the old Dixie Yarns mill and capping contaminated soil on the site, the Chattanooga Times Free Press (https://bit.ly/2l8IFVB ) reported.

That was before Donald Trump’s presidency began with a first-week directive to the EPA temporarily freezing all contract approvals and grant awards from the agency. The EPA reportedly has resumed awarding grants, though its future remains uncertain under the new administration.

But Chattanooga Public Works director Justin Holland said recently the city is looking for all types of grants, not just EPA money.

“They (the EPA) are certainly a funding source,” Holland said. “But it’s not the only funding source. We’ll exhaust any type of research we can.”

The former industrial site is next to a golf course and neighborhood.

The EPA remained involved at the Dixie Yarns site as recently as April 2016, when two agency officials signed a letter to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation director of remediation Steve Goins recommending the site “be given a high priority for a removal action.”

“This site condition would expose human populations and/or the food chain to hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants,” said the letter, signed by the EPA’s Matt Taylor and James Webster.

Environmental tests found concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene and benzo(b)fluoranthene exceeding federal limits. The EPA letter said demolition of a warehouse and flooring on the site exposed contaminated soils that could be swept to adjacent properties by rain and wind.

Exposure to benzo(a)pyrene is known to be associated with developmental, reproductive and immunological effects in animals, according to an EPA toxicological review. That review also said human studies showed similar effects.

Benzo(b)fluoranthene is considered a “probable human carcinogen” by EPA based on animal studies.

The EPA’s assessment of the Dixie Yarns site followed several other environmental studies.

A senior biologist with GeoServices, a company that conducted a study there in April 2014, surmised the environment was not being further damaged by a lack of action. But the biologist was quick to acknowledge that a lack of action was not benefiting anyone or the environment.

TDEC will oversee the city’s remediation effort. A department spokesman said in an email that TDEC has no data indicating the site poses an immediate risk.

Mayor Andy Berke said in January that the land might prove to be a good investment for the city.

City officials have said that once the site is capped they will work with the community to find the best use for the site of the once-bustling mill.

Cleanup is unlikely to start before July 1, when the city is expected to take ownership of the property.


Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, https://www.timesfreepress.com

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