Picayune Residents Want Life-Saving Answers

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality met with a group of Picayune residents at the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, simply to give the group an update on where they are in investigating the former wood treating site.

Eight months ago, the area off of Rosa Street was placed on the EPA's Superfund list. That means the government is mainly responsible for cleaning up the contaminated area.

"Right now, we're in what we call the remedial investigation phase. So we're investigating and trying to find out where all the pollution, the contamination is located, and so what we've been doing is collecting samples - soil samples, and water samples," said EPA project manager Humberto Guzman.

Contamination was found within many of the samples collected at the former Wood Treating, Incorporated, which was shut down and abandoned in 1999.

Waste and chemicals were left in holding tank,and EPA reports show these chemicals contain high levels of cancer-causing elements found in creosote - something community members have suspected for a while.

"I am a breast cancer patient and I feel like when I came to Picayune, no one in my family had ever had cancer. And I'm the first person to have breast cancer. In the year that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, people in this area was afraid to go to the doctor because 90% of them were diagnosed with breast cancer," said resident Emma Hair.

The EPA has been working on the site now for about eight months, but many residents want to know when will the clean up process begin.

"Many people have had health issues behind this matter and I'm just concerned and trying to see that this is rectified in a timely manner," said resident Mary Byrd.

"It is a long process, it's a slow process, and we hope everyone will be patient as we go through the process and do everything that we know to do to make sure that they and their families are protected," said MDEQ representative Jerry Banks.

EPA representatives have previously said the clean-up could take about 10 years, and is estimated to cost between five and 20-million dollars.