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Cleaning Up A Downtown Environmental Hazard

Posted on August 15, 2008

The Kerr-McGee property in Jacksonville is a polluted Talleyrand waterfront area that once was home to a long desserted plant.  

There from the 1890s until 1978, fertilizers and chemicals were produced. Today the land is vacant, there are no buildings and a builkhead is built over contaminated sediments at the bottom of the St. Johns River that runs through our city. 

How to clean up the site has been a headache but now the area may see state money for community projects to clean up the site.  Under the plan, the site owner, Tronox Inc. would purchase the river bottom as part of a cleanup of the river and the shore.

In return, in an unusual community-spirited project, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection wants most of the proceeds to return to neighborhood projects.  The cost of the river bottom is still undetermined but could run into a six-figure amount.

“It’;s an environmental justice issue, when you look at it,” Jim Maher, a longtime agency administrator told neighbors this week. 

Neighborhood groups plan to visit Tallahassee next month to rally for this unusual win-win for the city which could result in park improvements or developing more green space.  

As it stands now, no one can live in the area of the site which has been found to contain benzene, DDT, arsenic, lead and other pollutants.

Tronox would then cover the cost of a cleanup at about $18.6 million to dig a trench and fill it with a type of cement to keep pollutants in ground water from seeping out. Another plan would haul polluted soil away, but the cost goes up to $22 million.

The hope is that one day the property could be used for new industrial use that might include the nearby Port Authority.