Gulfport residents question port's plan for 33rd Street property - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport residents question port's plan for 33rd Street property

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

The Isaiah Fredericks Community Center in Gulfport was packed with dozens of residents Tuesday night. Each was wanting to hear more about the idea to utilize an inland port property on 33rd Street.

The meeting was a result of a decision made by the Port Authority earlier this month, to move forward with conversations about potential uses of the land.

"We are here because we want to learn. We live in this area and we want to learn as much as we possibly can. We wanted to be here tonight so that we could get an understand of what we may want later," former state representative and North Gulfport Civic Club member Frances Fredericks said as she addressed the crowd.

Howard Page, a member of the Steps Coalition, has been following the port development closely for months now. He, along with many others, expressed concerns that the newest property up for discussion was contaminated with arsenic and lead. It's a dangerous combination that, he said, could have far reaching consequences if not handled the right way.

"As we all heard tonight, there is existing lead, arsenic and radioactive contamination there. It has been there for a very long time, it's well documented. Hancock Bank knew about it when they sold the property. The port knew about it when they bought the property," Page said.

Page went on to say that he asked the Port Authority very direct questions concerning the move.

"Do you have a plan in place to manage that toxic site? Do you have a contractor who is managing that toxic site? Have you done the basic things that were recommended by a study done by Hancock Bank? It's very concerning to me that the port cannot answer some very simple direct questions given to them," Page said.

Interim Port Director Matt Wypyski told WLOX News last week that an environmental consulting firm monitors the contaminated 10 acres on a regular basis. He also said that recent tests show the contaminants have been restricted and are showing no signs of spreading. (Read the full story from the WLOX News Archive: http://www.wlox.com/story/20756634/port-of-gulfport-considering-inland-property-for-evacuation-site)

Many of the audience members' questions that could not be answered were written down and will be given to port officials later.

Though no formal decision has been made, the discussion of the 33rd Street property alone is enough to spark some concerns. Members of the STEPS coalition reminded the audience that their commitment and involvement to those meetings is a great way to change anything they don't like.

Thursday, January 31st the State Port at Gulfport will hold a community meeting at the Courtyard Marriott in Gulfport.

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