Under proposal, trailhead park land would be ready after topsoil is 'harvested'
by Laura Camper
Jan 19, 2013 | 9471 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Solutia has offered this site off Monsanto Road for Anniston as a trailhead for the Coldwater Mountain bicycle trails. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Solutia has offered this site off Monsanto Road for Anniston as a trailhead for the Coldwater Mountain bicycle trails. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
A plot of west Anniston land being offered by a local industry as a trailhead park for bicyclists will be available after topsoil is removed for specialized use elsewhere, company officials said.

Solutia has offered several acres off Monsanto Road to the city after it transfers the property’s clean topsoil to a nearby landfill holding soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls. The deal would allow Anniston to have a trailhead park leading to the Coldwater Mountain biking trails while the landfill receives an extra layer of dirt where PCBs are buried.

When local bike trail enthusiasts first approached Solutia about some property for a trailhead park, the donation seemed ideal, said Gayle Macolly, manager of remedial projects for Solutia.

“We could utilize the clean soil,” Macolly said. “What was left behind they could use for the park.”

It’s a deal the company’s made before, she said. In the past, Oxford was the beneficiary of some land where the company harvested soil.

PCBs had been manufactured for decades at Solutia’s plant across Alabama 202 from the proposed park. After a series of lawsuits, the company worked to clean property around the city, depositing the PCB-laden soil in the landfill.

Macolly said the donation won’t jeopardize anyone using the park. Solutia, now a subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Company, had the soil tested when it first considered using it to fortify the landfill cap. It was well below the residential limit, Macolly said.

Residential standards are one milligram per kilogram of soil for polychlorinated biphenyls and 400 milligrams per kilogram of soil for lead. If the levels are below that, there shouldn’t be any restrictions on the use of the property, said Doug Bullock, principal of Bullock Environmental, which helped with the cleanup of the former Chalk Line industrial site, where the Department of Human Resources is now located.

Lingering concerns

The deal still has one local property owner worried. In August, Council Rudolph had his empty lot off of Alabama 202 tested in preparation for putting it on the market. His property tested above the residential limit for PCBs, which he believes makes it unsellable. Then, he read in The Star about the deal for the Monsanto Road property. Immediately Rudolph was concerned, but Macolly and others say there’s little reason for that concern.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management confirmed there were no environmental covenants on the property owned by Solutia. Covenants outline any restrictions for use of the property and the responsibilities of the owner.

Even with the landfill nearby, the property doesn’t have any restrictions on it. That is because landfills in general are tightly regulated and monitored, Bullock said.

First, they’re lined with a heavy-duty plastic that keeps the contamination from leaching out. They are capped and covered with clean soil. Then the boundaries of the landfill are marked with concrete markers. The landfills are required to be monitored for 20 to 30 years and they must have some sort of leaching aid that captures rainwater and liquid from the decomposing material in the landfill. The leaching aid keeps the water from leaching out into the surrounding areas, Bullock said.

Robin Scott, executive director of the McClellan Development Authority, has experience dealing with landfills. He said McClellan contains legacy landfills that were there when the site was a military base.

An ADEM permit is required for an active landfill and covenant agreements for closed landfills, Scott said. The environmental covenants include responsibilities like maintaining the cap and preventing it from being disturbed. That can include prohibiting structures from being built on the landfill, Scott said. But environmental covenants do not extend to the area around the landfill and even the property that contains the landfill can be developed with some restrictions.

“We actually have a walking path on one of ours,” Scott said.

Macolly said the permit Solutia has with ADEM for its still- active landfill includes monthly inspections of the soil cap and twice a year the company has to do groundwater monitoring around the landfill to make sure nothing is leaching out. The reports are then sent both to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to ADEM.

Solutia is currently working with the city of Anniston, the Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association and local biking enthusiasts to put together a design for the park. Once it has harvested the clean soil, the company will grade the park to the specifications of the design, Macolly said.

Macolly said the company is also looking to sweeten the donation with an extra five acres. It is working out a trade with Alabama’s Forever Wild for some land it owns contiguous to the proposed site of the park. Solutia still owns some property on Coldwater Mountain it could trade for Forever Wild’s property, she said. If a deal is reached, that would mean Solutia could donate 10 acres toward the park, Macolly said.

But for now, the plans are on hold as Solutia waits for EPA’s approval on its soil cap project.

“We’re hoping to get started at the end of this year or the beginning of next,” Macolly said. “We’re at the mercy of EPA right now.”

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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