A toxic plume that formed underneath several blocks of downtown Montgomery is being removed from the EPA’s superfund priority list after years of cleanup efforts have reduced the threat to the public, the agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced on Wednesday.
Known as the Capital City Plume, the 50-block area of contaminated groundwater and soil covered much of downtown Montgomery and required millions of dollars in remediation costs. The city, county and a coalition of downtown businesses took control of the site in 2015, in an agreement with the EPA, and sped up cleanup efforts.
The site was first discovered in 1993 and the EPA took control shortly thereafter, but very little remediation occurred because the agency could not definitively identify businesses that were responsible for the contamination.
The city’s agreement with EPA put to rest the issue of responsibility and allowed for a shared responsibility that apparently resulted in faster cleanup.
“This is validation of all the hard work by many parties – city, county, state, federal and business entities – over many years to address and resolve a real environmental challenge,” said ADEM Director Lance LeFleur. “It couldn’t have happened without all the parties deciding we needed a plan to tackle the problem and agreeing to work together to carry it out. Now, this area of downtown Montgomery that has already seen significant redevelopment and reuse can blossom even more.”
The removal of the site from the National Priorities List should also remove burdensome and costly testing that hampered additional growth in many areas of downtown Montgomery.
“This announcement charts a path forward for our community and is essential to our vision for a stronger, more vibrant downtown core,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said. “We commend the collaboration and steady resolve of the Alliance, ADEM, the EPA and everyone involved in doing what is right for our city and our region. Moving forward, we are committed to continue building on this success as we expand economic opportunity and progress in Montgomery.”
The Downtown Alliance, as the collection of businesses, city, county and state government entities was known, was the brainchild of former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and attorneys negotiating with the EPA. At the time, it was a first-of-its-kind agreement.