Officials from the City of Hattiesburg and the United States Environmental Protection Agency will give the public an opportunity to offer opinions and other comments regarding the Hercules site before deciding whether to place the former factory on the list Superfund National Priorities List, which lists national priority sites among known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories.
A community meeting about this will be held at 6 p.m. on May 19 at the CE Roy Community Center, 300 East 5th Street in Hattiesburg.
“I think the city’s priority at this point is for residents to understand the options for the (Hercules) site,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “We have requested that the comment period be extended so that we can have this meeting, and on May 19, we want our residents to ask questions of the EPA and be informed of the process, so that they can give their opinion. on this comment.”
The NPL is primarily intended to guide the EPA in determining which sites warrant further investigation.
“Typically, a superfund program gives you three options that require long-term cleaning,” Barker said. “(First of all) they can put them on the national priority list.
“Second, you can address the site using other cleanup options like federal or state programs. Or there is also an alternative superfund approach.
Once a site is proposed for the NPL, EPA opens a comment period for the public to submit comments; the deadline for the public comment period is June 16. EPA will consider all public comments before making a final decision and moving to the next steps in the NPL process.
“We’re all learning this process together right now,” Barker said. “I think ultimately the purpose of this land – this site – has to be put back into productive use, where residents and people who potentially use the land feel safe.
“I think that’s everyone’s goal for this site.”
In addition to the community meeting, the public is invited to submit their comments until June 16 online at www.regulations.gov. All comments should include file number EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0191.
EPA officials announced March 17 that the agency has added 12 sites and is proposing to add five more, including the Hercules site, to the NPL where contamination releases pose significant risks to human health and the environment. ‘environment.
“Protecting overburdened communities from the toxic effects of Superfund sites is one of EPA’s highest priorities,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “By nominating sites such as Hercules Inc. to Superfund NPL, we are delivering on our commitment to protect the people we serve and support the revitalization of the local community by enabling the safe redevelopment of land for productive use.”
The Hercules site off West 7th Street was built shortly after World War I and started out with a small workforce before becoming one of the largest employers in the state over the next 50 years. At its peak, the company produced over 250 chemicals.
But after about 60 years in business, production at the factory began to slow due to a sluggish economy and declining efficiency. Employment continued to decline steadily until operations finally ceased in 2009.
In early 2011, investigations uncovered several harmful contaminants that were released into the environment after the facility was closed.
In May 2011, the EPA issued an order to Hercules, requiring the company to conduct onsite and offsite monitoring, testing, and reporting to determine the nature and extent of any environmental contamination to and from the Hattiesburg facility.
In December 2012, sludge cleanup began at the impoundment.
In 2013, the city of Hattiesburg sued Hercules and Ashland, alleging that groundwater contamination from the closed plant could have leaked into the city’s water supply. The lawsuit also alleged that Hercules improperly disposed of harmful chemicals in the facility for decades.
In 2016, it was announced that the city of Hattiesburg would receive $3 million as part of a settlement regarding this issue. The settlement only concerned the Hercules property and not the outdoor residences which could be the subject of ongoing individual lawsuits.