Gillem clean-up efforts won’t delay progress

FOREST PARK — Contaminated groundwater at a former U.S. Army base won’t hinder Forest Park’s plans for redevelopment.

The contamination isn’t news to city leaders, who have been working with the federal government on plans to clean up the area before commercial and industrial businesses set up shop inside the 1,170-acre facility. The city is poised to buy the former base, which opened Atlanta Quartermaster Depot in 1941, for about $30 million.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Forest Park/Fort Gillem Implementation Local Redevelopment Authority, Executive Director Fred Bryant told members that he went to Washington, D.C., days ago to discuss the cleanup.

“It was a very, very productive meeting, they were cordial,” he said. “The people with Environmental Protection Division were complimentary of the actions of the Army and we’re moving forward.”

Bryant said he is adamant that the part of the base with contaminated groundwater not be included in a federal “Superfund” site. The designation would keep the city from being able to sell parts of the property.

The committee voted in June to contract with Weston Solutions to perform clean-up duties for $195,000. The price is what it will cost to get an Environmental Services Cooperative Agreement, a grant from the U.S. Army to the authority to get site clean-up and closure and integrate remediation with redevelopment.

“We’re not going to be contracting with Weston to have the EPD tell the EPA to put the property in a Superfund,” said Bryant Wednesday. “The officials I talked to in Washington want to see the base redeveloped and I think we can work through the rest of the stuff.”

Earlier this month, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners unanimously gave the Army permission to set up 13 off-post groundwater monitoring wells for a year. The Army will use the wells for “environmental investigation and response, including the right to store, move and remove equipment and supplies.”

The groundwater became contaminated because the Army used to dump and bury toxic solvents around the base before that disposal method was outlawed.

Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt, an authority member, wanted to know Wednesday if rainwater runoff at the base is also contaminated. Bryant said it is not.

“And there is an acceptable way of dealing with the groundwater contamination,” said Bryant. “You can build a cap over it, like a parking lot, so nothing else can get into the water.”

Bryant also updated the authority on a production company that is paying $37,000 to lease a portion of the base for a year to film scenes for an upcoming movie. The company will also pay $5,000 for utilities, he said.

“The Army approved the sub-lease and they should be shooting in early October,” said Bryant, who declined to release specific information about the movie except to say it is a sequel.

The authority will meet again Sept. 25. The meetings are open to the public and held at Forest Park City Hall.