Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Capitol City Plume"--Fifty City Block Toxic Underground Plume in Montgomery, Alabama

This story has a compelling similarity to the Walter Coke contamination in north Birmingham--state and federal environmental officials have known about the contamination for decades and have been slow to act in cleaning up the area, while development has proceeded at a fast clip. A statewide pattern seems to be finally making its way onto the public radar revealing Alabama to be systemically and dangerously contaminated.

There's a tradeoff cost in human health and life that doesn't seem to figure into our governmental and business leader's plans. We cannot seem to count on EPA Region 4 for help either--they too seem to be carrying the water for the developers and getting into the *PR business outside of their environmental and public safety watchdog purview.
*(linked further on down in article on the phrase "revitalization of downtown Montgomery")

How many other areas in Alabama is the deadly deception going on unbeknownst to the potentially-vulnerable-to-exposure general public? And why?  Here's a list for Alabama from the Center For Public Integrity National Priority sites. Five Alabama sites are on the "Most Dangerous Superfunds Sites" list. The Capital City Plume, according to the census figures from 2000, was affecting a population of 209,615.

News story July 26, 2011 Associated Press via Al.com state wire:
The Environmental Protection Agency has identified the Montgomery Advertiser as one of the entities that may have caused the plume when operating at its former location.
County Commission Chairman Elton Dean said he remains confident that the county did due diligence before purchasing the old newspaper building and turning it into the county's main building after renovations.
News story by Ben Flanagan Al.com September 28, 2010: "Montgomery Commission tests air quality of county building":
"During a search for the source of the problem, a black, sooty substance was discovered in several isolated areas on the original concrete structure, according to a press release. A sample of that substance was collected on Sept. 3 and sent to Sutherland Environmental Company, Inc., where it was analyzed for 58 volatile organic compounds. Fifty-five of the compounds were not detected but small concentrations of *three compounds were detected." *note that the substances are not identified.
Region 4 Superfund
The Capitol City Plume site is located in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. The contaminated ground water plume is believed to exist throughout the downtown area. In September 1993, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) began investigating a report of Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) soil contamination at the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) Energy Plant site at the corner of Monroe Street and McDonough Street.

After 17 months of investigative work, ADEM came to the conclusion that there are a minimum of 6 ground water plumes contaminated with PCE and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX). The site covers an area from Alabama Street (south) to Pollard Street (north) and Court Street (west) to Union Street (east). 
In 1993, soil containing PCE was excavated during construction of the RSA Tower. The soil was removed and disposed of properly. The discovery of the PCE in the soil prompted ADEM to conduct a preliminary assessment of the area near the RSA Tower. The preliminary assessment performed by ADEM concluded that ground water was contaminated with PCE and BTEX.

Field work for the RI/FS began in March 2000 and was completed in 2003. Soil samples and ground water samples have been collected to delineate the areal extent of the contamination plumes. Analytical results from the ground water indicate that the shallow aquifer in the Montgomery downtown area is contaminated with PCE, BTEX, TCE (Trichloroethylene), and metals. 

Installation of 16 new monitoring wells and 16 temporary wells has been completed. The City has removed and plugged two shallow drinking water wells at the Court Street Pump Station but continues to pump drinking water from deep wells.
The City of Montgomery has implemented a moratorium on well drilling in the vicinity of the site (downtown area). Beginning in May 2006, the City began monitoring the ground water contamination through monitoring wells. Monitoring will continue for five years. The City will be sending the ground water monitoring data to ADEM and EPA Region 4.
The City of Montgomery has also been working with EPA in implementing a voluntary phytoremediation effort in the ground water plume to reduce risk to human health and the environment.

A supplemental remedial investigation took place in stages from August 2008 to the present. *Sample results have identified sources of contamination and the time at which the contamination was discharged to the environment.
*Please note the above sentence which states that there are "identified sources of contamination" while this linked narrative from May 11, 2000 cites only "potential sources" generally identified without a specific business name as "a chemical wholesaler, airport maintenance shops, airport fueling areas, an auto repair shop and a dry cleaner."
Site investigation activities are being led primarily by EPA and the United States Geological Survey.
From August 2-5, 2011, EPA and USGS representatives will conduct field sampling activities to further delineate the groundwater contamination as well as to assess if vapor intrusion is taking place in an existing Montgomery County building.
Who's making the decision to "move forward with privately-funded activities" instead of applying for Superfund monies to clean up this massive twenty year old contamination?
On August 1, 2011, EPA will meet with representatives of two potentially-responsible parties identified in a Site remedial investigation, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, City of Montgomery, USGS, and Montgomery Water Works representatives to discuss moving forward with privately-funded activities related to Site characterization and remediation. 
Alabama could have applied for the $600,000,000 made available for Superfund cleanup from the 2009 Stimulus Funds but they did not make any applications for a percent of the available money in this area: (but they did in many other areas for federal handouts)

Hazardous Substances Superfund - (Alabama will not be receiving stimulus funds for this program)
(National Appropriation: $600,000,000)
Description: This program provides additional funding to the Environmental Protection Agency for the Superfund Remedial Program. This program allows states to enter in competitive agreements with the EPA to conduct certain remedial actions at Superfund sites and receive a credit from the government for 90 percent of eligible expenses.

John Archibald, of the Birmingham News, in one of his recent columns offered this statement about Alabama's rampant pollution and economic development mindset: "That's traditional Alabama values again: better dead than unprofitable." EPA Region 4 seems to go along with that idea, especially since they knew about the CC Plume, in the following statements on the *revitalization of downtown Montgomery and the importance of 'sticking to the plan':
Capitol City Ground Water PlumeGround water in western portions of downtown Montgomery, Alabama, is contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), chemicals commonly used in dry cleaning and cleaning of machine parts. Work to assess the ground water contamination and develop the site’s cleanup plan is currently ongoing. The City of Montgomery is working closely with EPA to facilitate the site’s cleanup. Downtown Montgomery remains open for business during the site’s ground water cleanup. Land uses include retail districts, neighborhoods, parks, offices and industrial areas. The revitalization of Montgomery’s downtown is a major community priority. The area is recognized as the “heart of the city.” Recent redevelopment projects include the Montgomery Biscuits minor league baseball stadium, retail centers, downtown apartments and restaurants.
Have our business leaders, politicians, economic developers and state agencies simply lost their minds from the effects of all the pollution or are they just out to eliminate the undesirable elements of Alabama's communities? The location of the Capital City Plume seems to negate the latter, because a large portion of the businesses and developments in the affected area are housing some of our state elites, primarily in the RSA Tower Complex of Montgomery, located in the toxic zone.

So what other possibility does that leave us as to why Alabama continues to labor under the delusion of their favorite hackney-eyed, overused phrase of describing economic development as "world class?" There's nothing blue ribbon or superior about any development that comes with a staggering cost of health to a large segment of people.

Unless Archibald's right--"better dead than unprofitable."

Or maybe it's something else entirely consisting of the usual BARD suspects and their webs of deceit.

Maybe it's a combination of the two strengthened by the political pay to play system our legislators have grown ridiculously accustomed to.

Whatever the reasons, the citizens of this state deserve truth, accountability and transparency with information that directly affects the quality of their lives and not the same old deadly deceptions of business as usual.
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  1. OMG!
    I have to think more about this as soon as I get my jaw off the ground...

  2. I misread the headline for a a minute and thought it said above ground and immediately thought of the state house.
    Sorry, couldn't resist.
    On a serious note, I had no idea about this and I live in Montgomery! It's damn frightening is what it is!!!!!!!

  3. Okay so let's see what the talking heads have to say in early August. What are the chances it will be more of the same ineffectual behavior?
    I would say probably yes.

  4. Nice.
    Another example of what Aladumba does so wrong.

  5. Annette in AlabamaJuly 26, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    This latest bomb shell is a continuation of the failures of ADEM and EPA Region 4. What do they have to say for themselves? Testing, testing, testing. Delay, delay, delay.

    And after all these years, do you suppose any one of them can get this right? Like too big to fail in the bank bailout, is this too contaminated to clean up?

    What are we to think? They have these jobs. They get paid. Right? Why the heck are they still employed at ADEM and EPA Region 4 doing the so-called jobs in these capacities? They need to resign, get out of the way and allow for a cleanup.

    Plain and simple. Get out of the way. These jokers have had more than adequate time. Leave!

  6. Lookee who is in that so-called 50 block area:
    Alabama Public Service Commission - 100 N Union Circuit Court Clerk Criminal-251 S. Lawrence
    Montgomery County Jail-250 S McDonough
    Montgomery County Corrections - 301 Adams Ave
    State Probation & Parole Office - 350 Adams Ave
    Alabama Democratic Party - 501 Adams Ave
    RSA Alabama Center for Commerce - 401 Adams
    The Retirement Systems of Alabama - 201 S Union
    Montgomery County Sheriff - 115 S. Perry
    AT&T - 907 Ann Street
    Honorable Truman M Hobbs A US government Office - 251 S Lawrence Street
    BBVA Compass - 150 Dexter Avenue
    Alabama Science Center - 244 Dexter Avenue
    Supreme Court Clerk - 300 Dexter Avenue
    Southern Poverty Law Center - 400 Washington Avenue
    Montgomery City Hall - 103 N Perry Street
    Alabama Attorney General - 501 Washington Avenue
    Alabama Secretary of State - 600 Dexter Avenue
    Alabama State Capitol - 600 Dexter Avenue

    and there are many others

  7. World Class Jackasses. What a mess they have made.

    ADEM and EPA Region 4 - Toxic People

  8. Capital city contamination swept under the rug.
    This brings new meaning to the term 'dirty old men' and their games. This one is just way too dangerous and is akin to WMD and terrorism.

  9. Collusion, conspiracy and corruption. These state employees look like criminals to me.

    Downtown Montgomery is a crime scene. We need some real homeland security to protect the people from these environmental criminals. And someone to get busy and make the charges and make them stick. No doubt.

    My only other idea on the matter is these people are insane. Were they thinking mother nature would take care of the matter for them or perhaps the good fairy? Better yet, did they believe someone else would come along to deal with it, one day.

    One day is here.

    Their reckless actions are devastating.

  10. No one in this state is this far above the law.

    This is a crime agasint the state (itself) and society. This deviant behavior is not within the realm of normal or acceptable.

    And they cannot say they did not know.

    Their negligence is no less a culpability. Reckless endangerment. A strict liability.

    And probably more.

  11. Since when does the EPA hawk Alabama economic development in a known contaminated area? WTF? Who told them to add the downtown Montgomery is so damn wonderful (except for the POISONS, HELLO!) part? That is nauseating and very suspicious wording from where I sit.

  12. Some person or persons made a decision NOT to use the Superfund Remedial Program. By doing so would have been public admission of the toxins in downtown Montgomery and that admission would have created a trail back to the guilty. So they covered for some one or several some ones. And they covered it up as long as they could. All the while the downtown revitalization project carried on. This created even more guilty parties.

    All those nice and new and expensive buildings, oh so pretty and making Montgomery look like a city in the 21st century for all the world to see and for the people of Alabama to be so proud of.

    Too bad it's turned out to be this horrible situation. We also know they don't want to do the right thing, because the right thing is not in them. Thus far they have shown all of us they have not intended to responded with appropriate actions.

    I am wondering if there is a direct and guilty connection to the Retirement System of Alabama and all of those buildings they built in this contaminated area. And when did they know? And I am also wondering if a risk management program has them covered?

  13. NoQuarryInVincentJuly 27, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    With all due respect to those folks who work in the state Capitol, the AL attorney general's office and other government buildings, exposure to such toxins as benzene and TCE can cause damage to the central nervous system.

  14. Alabama is out of control about economic development due to their egregious absence of forethought and blatant denial of reality about pollution and the associated costs of serial mistakes.
    If the powers that be are following India and China as models, which they seem to be, I would say they are well on their way to ruin in financial and remedial expenses.


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