Vicksburg Chemical cleanup could cost up to $30 million

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 23, 2002

[10/23/02]The cleanup of the abandoned Vicksburg Chemical Company plant on Rifle Range Road could cost up to $30 million in state and federal funds.

A bankruptcy judge in New York signed an order late last week allowing Cedar Chemical Corporation, the parent company of Vicksburg Chemical, to abandon the site, leaving the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to clean up pesticides and other contaminants that have seeped into the soil around the plant over the past 40 years.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is now working with the Environmental Protection Agency to come up with a plan to clean up about 30 areas surrounding the facility.

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“There are some dangerous areas on the site,” said Chuck Barlow, general counsel for MDEQ. “It (the cleanup) could cost between $4 million and $30 million.”

Cedar Chemical filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, laying off about 100 people locally. The plant, which opened in Vicksburg in 1953, manufactured pesticides, fertilizers and industrial chemicals, which were shipped around the world.

Barlow said many of those chemicals have seeped into the soil and ground water below the plant including contaminants such as arsenic and the pesticide Toxaphene. A contractor working for the EPA is also on site maintaining the plant’s waste water treatment facility to keep the contaminants from leaking into area ground water.

“There’s been no impact that we know of to area surface water,” Barlow said. “That’s why we’re there now.”

Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens said the city is also still interested in purchasing part of the 500-area site to develop a golf course. Although MDEQ officials say they are confident that the toxins are limited to the area immediately around the plant, Leyens said the city will wait for the results from an ongoing environmental assessment before spending about $3 million on the land.

“We’re not going to buy any contaminated land,” Leyens said. “And we don’t want the plant.”

Leyens also said the city has been approached by two companies interested in developing the 18-hole course along the Mississippi River. Leyens would not identify the two companies.

Barlow said that any proceeds from the sale of the property would go toward the cost of the cleanup.

DEQ officials said they will continue to monitor the site until the cleanup can begin. L.W. “Bump” Callaway, director of Warren County Emergency Management, said there are no water wells near the plant and that there is no immediate danger to the drinking water supply.

The city’s water supply comes from wells along North Washington Street. The nearest water wells are in the south part of the county near Yokena.