Fort Valley, Georgia Receives the Fourth Excellence in Site Reuse Award on the 10th Anniversary of the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative
EPA Region 4 presented the community of Fort Valley, Georgia its “Excellence in Site Reuse” award. This is the fourth such award Region 4 has offered at Superfund sites where community stakeholders and EPA have worked together to return the site to beneficial use. Over 60 certificates were presented to members of the community whose dedicated efforts have helped ensure the successful redevelopment of the Woolfolk Chemical site. The Thomas Public Library and Troutman House – a new community welcome center – now grace a cleaned up portion of the site. Remediation efforts are still underway at the former pesticide facility downtown, and the citizens of Fort Valley have worked with EPA for the last 12 years to understand EPA’s remediation process and determine appropriate future uses for the land. Reuse plans are underway, which may include a multi-jurisdictional storage facility for local government documents, a police training center, a park or open space, and possibly a new building for the State of Fort Valley University.
The award took place on an important anniversary – the 10th Anniversary of EPA’s Superfund Redevelopment Initiative. Melissa Friedland, the Superfund Program Manager for Redevelopment, was on hand to give thanks to the citizens of Fort Valley and EPA Region 4 staff. “The Superfund Redevelopment initiative was started in 1999 because the Agency felt it was important to make a national effort to help communities think about the reuse of sites," Melissa Friedland shared. "Over the past ten years, SRI has learned lessons about how to do things smarter and more effectively, and Fort Valley has played an important role in that process… I think ten years from now, when Superfund Redevelopment celebrates its 20th anniversary, we'll be able to look back to Woolfolk as a story that helped shape and change lives not only in Fort Valley, but across the country.” Melissa Friedland noted that the approach to perform reuse planning at Superfund sites, which consists of using contractor services to look at reuse in a way that recognizes the unique challenges presented by Superfund sites, was pioneered by the community and Mayor of Fort Valley.
Nearly 100 people gathered to celebrate the award and give recognition to the inspiring efforts made by Fort Valley to work together towards a common purpose. Additional participants included numerous representatives of the Georgia State legislature, EPA Region 4 staff, Peach County officials, Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), and many citizens of Fort Valley who made reuse possible. The awards were presented by Franklin Hill, the Director of the Superfund Division, who stated that $1.8 million in stimulus money would be coming to the Town of Fort Valley to help create jobs, but that “he was excited about the progress they have made today.” Many members of the Woolfolk Alliance, a multi-stakeholder group formed to work with EPA to communicate community concerns, attended, including Mayor John Stumbo. “We have lived together for twelve years,” Mayor Stumbo observed of the reuse planning process. “We may not always agree, but we respect each other and it’s been a blessing to watch people come together and watch us stand by our beliefs."
The Woolfolk Alliance has met every six weeks for the last twelve years. Mayor Stumbo was also very complimentary of the efforts made by members of EPA Region 4, including Charles King and Angela Miller, to remediate the site. “This has not been easy for us a community, but I have not had one single citizen complaint during the remediation process, and that is a testament to EPA’s effort and commitment to working with us.”