A diesel fuel spill from the past will have to be cleaned up before the Limestone County school board will agree to buy an additional piece of land for the new Ardmore High School gymnasium.
Taz Morell of Morell Engineering of Athens told school board members during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday an initial soil test of the property shows diesel fuel was spilled where a motor had operated a cotton gin about 40 years ago.
Morell said a soil bore showed the earth around the engine had 787 parts per million of petroleum, which he surmised was diesel fuel. He said the Alabama Environmental Management Agency and Environmental Protection Agency allows only 100 parts per million before corrective action must be taken.
“So, you do have some contaminates, but only in one area and it is very localized at the welding shop,” he said.
Soil tests in other areas were clean, he said.
To proceed, Morell said his company would need $7,350 to drill 10 more samples to pinpoint the scope of the spill, put together a remediation plan and provide an estimated cleanup cost. He said the clean up cost would likely be less than $50,000, an amount that startled board members.
Interim Superintendent Zebbra Green said the cost of the additional testing as well as the cost of remediation would have to be paid by the landowner and put in the sales contract for the land before the schools would agree to buy it.
Board member Charles Shoulders doubted the property owner would agree to pay the $7,350 for addition soil testing because she might not be willing to pay $50,000 or more to remediate the property.
“She could be looking at taking her land back and owing us $7,350,” Shoulders said.
He and board member Earl Glaze had opposed the additional land purchase because of the initial cost and the potential environment study and remediation costs.
Maintenance Director Steve Wallace said the schools had contacted the property owner to inform her of Morell’s findings and they are waiting for a reply.
Board members will consider the matter again once the landowner responds.
Board member James Shannon, who represents constituents in the Ardmore area, said the city of Ardmore could help remediate the fuel spill. However, Glaze, who works for the city of Athens, said cities are not allowed to do work on private property.
The board agreed in March to pay $150,000 for the 1.4 acres, assuming it was clear of environmental problems. They had already paid $31,500 for less than an acre west of the property. The additional property is desired so the architect can design a one-story gym closer to the school rather than a three-story gym farther away.
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