A local environmentalist with a background in hydrology and geology was kind enough to put significant effort into reviewing the mountains of information regarding Cop City and asked us to host their response/notes below. We are more than happy to do so and thank them for their dedication to the ongoing efforts to hold the city accountable for their continued actions in relation to the proposed Cop City development.
A Summary of the Phase 1 Environmental Report
The conclusion of the report is that further research is necessary. There are multiple knowledge gaps identified, some more significant than others. The history of the boiler room is unknown in general and specifically the source of fuel that’s used. Tires obstruct the area, so for further research in the form of sampling they’ll have to be removed and properly disposed of. Another building were the history is unknown is the building Terracon (The company who did the environmental assessment) named building B3. It’s speculated that this is one of the old prison farm buildings since it shows up on aerial photos dating back to the 60s, but it’s unknown what it was used for since they couldn’t get in contact with a City of Atlanta representative with more knowledge regarding the historical use of the site. It’s possible that this building was used to store fertilizer, pesticides and other (chemical) products necessary to farm. Or that it was used to store and work on farm equipment. These possibilities (and uncertainties) together with the 55-gallon drums of unknown origin, the staining of the ground and the fact that the ground is made out of gravel means further research has to be done on the buildings history before sampling. There’s also a circa 20 000-gallon above ground tank (AGT) on the site. The origin of this tank is unknown as is what it was used for.
Some of these data gaps could’ve been filled if the City of Atlanta, as both the owner and client, provided Terracon with the information and documentation useful for this investigation. Besides a site contact, such information was not provided, causing (significant) data gaps.
In general there’s a problem with places that couldn’t be properly inspected. Either because of the amount of debris that was there or the state of the building which made it impossible to see the ground. There are multiple places Terracon pointed out as possible contaminated area which couldn’t be properly searched or can only be sampled when certain debris is removed. The City of Atlanta will have to move and properly dispose of them before further (physical) examinations of these sites can happen. I think that this is what they’re doing right now. Cop city has been approved, but they can’t build anything till further environmental assessments are completed and all the RECs sites (areas where pollution is (likely) present) have been properly dealt with. What they can do is clean up the debris all over the site, both to start the cleaning process and to make further investigation possible.
Terracon found multiple areas they believe are likely contaminated:
All the 3 buildings on the east site of the property are named as REC associated sites. This is because of the large amount of cans & drums found in and around the buildings, the historic use of some of the buildings (i.e. fueling blocks) and the stained ground documented during the site reconnaissance. These are all reasons to expect contamination.
The boiler room is also a site of likely contamination. Both because, as mentioned before, the history of the building and the source of fuel is unknown. It could also not be properly investigated at the site reconnaissance because of the sheer amount of tires found in and around the building. The tires itself and the deliberate burning of them by the city are also a possible contamination. Stained ground and stressed vegetation has been seen in the area.
Another possible contamination is the landfill across the road. Due to the age of the landfill and the high concentration of certain metals (Barium, Cobalt, Mercury, and Zinc) found in the groundwater monitoring well closest to the prison farm. It’s likely that pollutants from the landfill have traveled to the old prison farm site itself.
Due to the unknown origin and use of the 20 000-gallon tank, it’s considered a possible contaminated site.
The old residential house will also have to be investigated since it might be built wit asbestos containing materials (ACMs). It might also have an underground storage tank (UST) for fuel. If that’s the case the city will have to properly dispose of that as well.
Terracon found one historic contamination site in the area in the form of underground storage tanks. These have already been cleaned up.
Because of the long history as a farm Terracon also mentions the possibility of buried debris in other areas not mentioned above. They suggest excavating test pits in the areas of the debris and possible landfilled areas to further asses this possibility.
At last I want to point out which part of the old prison farm location they decided to asses and which they didn’t. All the places they say they want to use for community building and farming crops have not been investigated. This is entirely purposeful and the reason I believe why that’s done is because these places might be effected by possible contaminations which are now (partly) outside the scope of the investigation. Besides that, this part of the site would be used for something entirely different. Ground that will be used to grow food need to be cleaner than ground that will used for industry or even living. Meaning that they’ll not only have to clean the place, they’ll also have to do a lot thorougher (and expensive) job on the eastern side, than on the western side of the old prison farm. This eastern part not being part of the investigation gives them possible deniability on the state of the area. It means they can build cop city, do that assessment when they feel like it, see that it has contaminations and decide to not realize any of their community building projects because it’s ‘to expensive’. If they’d included it in this assessment they’d have to clean it up just like the rest of the contamination at the old prison farm. It’s incredibly transparent and if they start growing crops there without doing a proper assessment, I’d discourage anybody eating food coming from these grounds, due to the health risks.