March 19, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---City leaders and folks in Hyde Park got some answers from Georgia's Environmental Protection Division today...but they weren't the answers many of them wanted to hear.
The EPD found parts of the community are contaminated, but not bad enough for relocation.
A lot of neighbors in Hyde Park were hopeful the results from the EPD would help their push for relocation, but these findings may do just the opposite.
After taking pictures and studying the soil in the area two weeks ago, Georgia EPD branch chief Mark Smith is back answering the fundamental question: is Hyde Park contaminated?
"The answer is yes, there is contamination in Hyde Park," Smith told the Commission and Hyde Park residents today.
But he says the only major hazard is lead, found in four areas where he says kids would not play. He also says cleanup is needed, but can happen without moving residents.
"Most of the samples in the neighborhood are completely clean and the groundwater is clean," he said.
Some commissioners and neighbors were not buying it. Some blame their long bouts with cancer and lupus on the contamination and maintain that any hazard in any part of Hyde Park is a danger.
"Ditches are still contaminated," said resident Eunice Jordan. "Children are still playing in soil and ditches."
Then government watchdog Woody Merry took the mike, telling the residents city leaders' passionate push for relocation was all political.
"Thou shall not give false witness," he said. "You have been a political football for money. You have been a political football for political gain."
Despite the EPD's findings of little contamination, the residents say the negative stigma attached to Hyde Park has devalued their properties forever.
Because of that, Commissioner Don Grantham is recommending freezing property taxes for all Hyde Park residents.
"Right now, if we put a freeze on their taxes, and hold them where they are, at least it gives the people some indication we are doing something about it," he said.
So what's next for Hyde Park?
Tomorrow, commissioners will vote on whether taxes will be frozen for Hyde Park residents.
Commissioner J.R. Hatney is currently in Washington, D.C. meeting with Congressman John Barrow about getting federal help.
In the meantime, city leaders have vowed to fix drainage problems in the community and crack down on dumping in that area to prevent further contamination.