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Sunday, October 4, 2009 - 2:35pm

Neighborhood Wants Funds

People in Augusta's Hyde Park neighborhood say they've been excluded from the Augusta Commission's application for $600,000 in federal grant money for environmental cleanup.

The money would fund the detection of environmental hazards on property in Augusta and for cleanup.

State and federal officials in the 1990s found that a salvage yard contaminated the area with lead, arsenic and other toxins years ago. The state spent several years and millions of dollars cleaning it up.

But a group of residents have argued that the toxins migrated from the site to their homes in this African-American neighborhood, affecting their health, property values and quality of life. The extent of contamination has been a matter of dispute between the neighborhood and government officials.
The Augusta city administrator, Fred Russell, says Hyde Park is not eligible for the money from the EPA's Brownfields grant program, since similar funding has been provided in the past. But Commissioner J.R. Hatney says previous grant money has largely funded the study of business property. A study in 2006, funded with Brownfields money, did find contamination in the soil of some yards next to the site, according to media reports.
A committee of commissioners has approved the grant proposal, but it still must go before the full commission.