Hyde Park residents don't have to move

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February 21, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Folks in Hyde Park will have a choice of whether to leave according to the Augusta Brownfields Commission.

For several months that group has been working with city leaders on a plan to relocate everyone in an area believed to be contaminated.

Since this relocation plan started, some Hyde Park residents have been at odds with the Brownfields Commission and city leaders because they don't see a need to move. Now those groups say they won't have to.

Peter Salisbury has called Hyde Park home for 51 years. Even though several studies show he and the nearly 500 residents in the Augusta community are living near or on toxic soil, he plans on staying put.

"I'm 93 years old," he said. "I don't think I need to go nowhere."

Augusta's Brownfields Commission has been working with city leaders to establish a budget to relocate everyone in Hyde Park, but now the group says any move will be optional.

"You would hate to see somebody left in a condition where you know they need to move, so we can't force them to go," said Charles Utley.

Soil tests conducted by several firms turned up high levels of mercury, zinc, and lead.

The contamination is said to have likely been spread through storm water runoff from the old Goldberg junkyard.

Longtime resident Arthur Smith says after putting his health at risk for 30 years, he's more than ready to relocate.

"The story of Hyde Park has been going on for too long. It's time for justice to come," he said.

Those who want to stay say they will until there's more proof that living in the area is unsafe.

However, Brownsfield leaders say the division presents another problem. Now some lawmakers are pushing for millions in federal money for cleanup. Brownfields chairman Charles Utley says that cleanup can't happen if some stay. "Inhaling will become a problem, and you can't have a good cleanup."

So while leaders work hard towards a solution, Mr. Salisbury says he'll relax, since at least for now, he won't have to move.

Mr. Utley says the EPA could eventually force the residents to move at some point.

The total cost of relocating and cleaning up is expected to reach at least $15 million.

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