Pollution could cost city $500K

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Bennie Ruth Crenshaw called it a “lemon.”

Whatever it is, the city of Selma could be forced to shell out nearly $500,000 for contamination under the old Honda All-Lock building. And what’s under the building isn’t lemonade.

In 1998, the city acquired the building from Honda after the company closed its Selma operation. In fact, the Honda officials knew there was contamination under its building and paid to help keep that contamination cleaned.

At Monday night’s Selma City Council meeting, Mayor James Perkins Jr. alerted council about the problem and took on a somber tone in the process.

“This disturbs me,” Perkins said. “According to [the Alabama Department of Emergency Management], the monitoring process we’ve been using is not acceptable. And $250,000 later, they’ve said what we’ve been doing won’t work.”

At Monday’s meeting, Perkins asked the council to approve $25,000 to hire Samuel Shannon, a senior hydrogeologist at CH2M Hill in Montgomery, to discover the problems underneath the All-Lock building.

The council voted unanimously to hire Shannon.

“We don’t have much choice here,” Perkins said. “We’ve got to do this, according to ADEM.”

As of July 9, the city of Selma had 45 days to file a report based on 14 questions the state environmental agency asked.

“A lot of this is assumption, but from what we can find in records, Honda used metal plating in its operation here,” Shannon said. Before using those metal plates, the company would “de-grease” the material. That de-greasing process caused the contamination of the soil underneath the old All-Lock building.

According to Shannon, the two products in the soil are both chlorine-based.

“If you drank a glass full of it, you might get sick,” Shannon said. “But right now, it’s not that bad.”

One of the reasons ADEM has required such a quick response from Selma is because the contamination is spreading. Under the All-Lock building, the chlorine products are quite condense. However, that contamination appears to have spread.

“Right now we don’t think it’s much of a threat,” said Shannon, who indicated that the chemicals have spread into an open field.

However, he also said that the chemicals are heavier than water and could seep into the city’s water wells.

Once Shannon and his company complete their research into the contamination, the city could have to spend up to $500,000 to clean the problem.

“I’m not sure where the money will come from yet,” Perkins said. “There are some grants available that we’ll look at.”

Shannon said part of his job will be to help the city find funding for the cleaning process.