Hazardous waste official comes to Augusta to evaluate Hyde Park

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February 28, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The city of Augusta brought in one of the Georgia state Environmental Protection Division's top hazardous waste officials to evaluate Hyde Park.

Mark Smith is here to figure out just how bad the problem is, and that's exactly what he told the people who live there at a packed meeting this afternoon.

Neighbors had a lot of questions.

Some gathered to tell Smith they're ready to leave after exposure to things like mercury, zinc, and lead from the old Goldberg Junkyard.

"We got children dying out here," Loise Douse said. "Children go blind. I got a son over here on an asthma pump."

Brownfields Commission chairman Rev. Charles Utley says the ditches flood, bringing toxins to the homes.

"It's a problem, and we want the best for the residents in this area," Rev. Utley said. He wants everyone to have the option to leave.

But political activist Woody Merry wants to make sure no one is forced out. An environmental attorney says just two of 34 areas in the Brownfields study have high enough levels to be a hazard.

"We want a beautification, not a relocation," Merry said. "We want this place fixed up and cleaned up."

"We just want to be left alone, get on with our lives," said resident Elbert Hightower.

It's an issue with two sides and one common goal: getting all the facts.

"These people want answers, and I got to be able to communicate with them. And I'm looking for ways to do that," Smith said.

City Administrator Fred Russell says Smith has all the data, and once he looks everything over, he'll present his recommendations to the city.

Russell says he expects this to happen soon, but he didn't give an exact date. He says they'll be able to make a decision about what to do once the findings are ready.

Of course there's a price tag for you in this.

Russell recently asked the finance committee for $280,000 to start a department to deal with all this.

They didn't approve it, wanting to see other options.

Charles Utley with the Augusta Brownfields Commission says the total cleanup and relocation cost will be at least $15 million.

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