Few Families Accept Florida Contaminated Land Buyout

July 20, 2007

Federal officials have offered to buy dozens of homes built near a Superfund site in Pensacola, Fla., but only a handful of families have taken offers.

The six families that have agreed to sell their homes are among 55 living in Clarinda Triangle, a neighborhood contaminated by toxic pollutants from the former Escambia Treating Co. The defunct wood-treating company dumped large amounts of chemicals into unlined holding ponds.

Although most residents agree there are health hazards in the neighborhood, many are reluctant to move.

“We grew up here,” Tiffany Nickson, 26, told the Pensacola News Journal in a Tuesday story. “Everybody knows everybody, and most everyone is related. We don’t want to leave.”

Mildred Holley, 79, is among the home owners who have sold to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She bought a newer, larger home with the $88,000 the agency paid for her home and the additional relocation money.

Superfund is the federal government’s program to clean up hazardous waste sites.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is leading the relocation project and cleanup. The Corps hopes to complete the buyouts by the end of the year, said Patricia Kenny, interim project manager for the agency.

Some residents said negotiations stalled when a government appraiser valued their property below market value.

“We weren’t going to stand for those low-ball appraisals,” said Katherine Wade, community director for the Clarinda Triangle Association.

But a new appraiser was hired in May, and negotiations seem to be back on track, Wade said.

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