Columbus city councilmen voted Monday to give easements to the Greenfield Multistate Trust for the duration of an environmental remediation project for the Seventh Avenue ditch.
Once the project is complete, the easements will be returned to the city.
“The city got eight easements [from private property owners along the ditch route] to allow the construction of the Seventh Avenue portion of the ditch,” J5 Broaddus Senior Project Manager Robyn Eastman told The Dispatch after the meeting. “This agreement conveys those easements to the Greenfield Trust for the construction period. This is going to allow us to enter the property and complete this ditch project.”
Councilmen voted 5-0 for the action. Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens was absent from Monday’s specially-called meeting.
The $3.3 million project will address 935 feet of ditch from a box culvert near Maranatha Faith Center to a separate culvert were Seventh Avenue North connects to Propst Park. A box culvert will be installed along the ditch, and Eastman said the ditch, which is currently open, will be closed off and topped with dirt. Eastman said the project has received conditional approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and approval from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
The ditch flows from the former Kerr-McGee on 14th Avenue North. Kerr-McGee and its successor, Tronox, operated a chemical processing facility at the site from 1928 to 2003.
The facility produced railroad cross ties. Since its close, the site has been discovered as the source of environmental contamination — primarily from creosote — and sealed off.
Creosote is a chemical used to preserve wood. According to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, it can cause skin and eye irritation, stomach pains, liver or kidney problems and possibly cancer.
The Greenfield Environmental Multistate Trust manages more than 400 former Kerr-McGee sites in 24 states. It uses $5.5 billion in settlement money from a federal lawsuit against the company to address environmental concerns at former sites.
Columbus received $68 million for environmental action in and around the site of its former Kerr-McGee plant.
Mayor Robert Smith said the project does not require matching funds from the city.
“This is something that’s been long overdue,” Smith said. “…There’s no match. That’s one of the reasons the councilmen didn’t hesitate to approve it.”
Eastman said a conference with contractors on the project is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. today at the Trotter Convention Center.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.