GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Concerns are being voiced about the Port of Gulfport using a contaminated site for future construction.
Decades ago, a vacant property in north Gulfport near 33rd Street and 34th Avenue was the site of a fertilizer plant. Now, the Port of Gulfport is looking into the possibility of doing some construction on the land.
"This would be for the installation of two rail lines that would be necessary to be able to get the military cargo and other cargo on and off the site," said port director Jonathan Daniels.
The land and groundwater were found to be contaminated with toxins and radioactive material, according to Howard Page with the North Gulfport Land Trust. "The concern is the groundwater would migrate off-site, that it would actually move," he said.
Daniels said a lot of work has gone into cleaning up the site and that cleanup has been approved by MDEQ. "We found that there is no additional migration. The work that was done to be able to cap the site, to be able to go through that mitigation, has worked," he said.
Page wanted a public hearing held to make sure all voices are heard on the matter. Daniels said community input has already made changes in the project.
For instance, a parking lot was going to be built over the footprint of the old factory, where contamination was found and cleaned up. This was before backlash from the community altered the plans. "They are not designing anything, nor will there be construction over that former contaminated location," said Daniels.
Page believes the Port should consider alternatives. "The highest and best use for this land is to protect the flood protection that it provides in the wetlands, to put it into a conservation easement and to use many other outstanding properties that we have," said Page.
According to Daniels, this piece of real estate works best because of its location, and size. Daniels said there will be a public meeting concerning the site if MDEQ calls for one. He said any construction on the project is still a long way from happening.