More Info Contamination At Proposed Spaceport Site

Opponents to the Camden Spaceport have also expressed concern about the contamination of the proposed site in Woodbine, Georgia, and the environmental risks the county might take on with it.

The property is now owned by Union Carbide and its parent company, Dow Chemical Company. Part of the land is under an Environmental Covenant with the Environmental Protection Division because of high contamination levels. Under the covenant, one piece of the property, a former landfill, cannot be used for residential purposes and the groundwater cannot be used for anything besides remediation.

According to the purchase option agreement Camden County has worked out, that landfill would remain in the hands of Union Carbide if the county acquired it. The county would assume any unknown environmental liability that comes up after the closing date, not explicitly related to Union Carbide activities.

“The first time they have a spill of rocket fuel that mixes with the contamination in the ground, they’re going to be in remediation hell and in bed with Union Carbide until the end of time,” said Jim Renner, a Little Cumberland landowner and a geologist. “They’ll never sort that one out.”

Jim Brown is the program manager for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s hazardous waste corrective action program, which oversees the Woodbine site. He said he has no concerns about the spaceport on that location from a hazardous waste perspective.

Opponents have raised concerns that vibrations from rocket launches might release contaminated soil into Todd Creek. However, Brown said Union Carbide is working with the government on reinforcing the bank, which would prevent that from happening.

James Coughlin with the Camden Joint Development Authority said having a site with some unusable acreage due to something like contamination is “a good thing” for a spaceport, since they are required to retain buffer property. Plus, more than two-thirds of the Union Carbide property the county is wetlands.

Renner argued that beyond environmental issues, buying the property is unwise financially because of the risks: “Right now, [Union Carbide] is paying taxes on the property,” said Renner. “When the county gets it, that will go away.”