Source: https://www.13wmaz.com, November 28, 2018
By: Avery Braxton
The Mercer University Triangle is considered a hazardous site by the Environmental Protection Division.
An area frequented by Mercer University students and Bibb County residents has been considered a hazardous site for years.
The “Mercer University Triangle” lies right alongside Mercer Village and focused primarily where Montpelier Avenue and Coleman Avenue split near Mercer’s campus. The university discovered chemicals in the ground circa 2004 when they began building the fountain near Mercer Village.
“We discovered that there was a tank underground,” said James Netherton, Vice President of Administration and Finance at Mercer. “Knowing that there was a dry cleaners there before, we figured it was related to it.”
Testing uncovered concentrations of chemicals like tetrachlorothene and tricholoroethene that had seeped into the ground from a dry cleaners years prior. There was also a gas station petroleum tank in the ground.
“We were concerned about assessing the potential for it harming anyone,” Netherton said. “Fortunately, the site had only contaminated groundwater — there were no wells in the area and so it was contained and that helped guide how we treated it.”
The groundwater wouldn’t harm anyone, but Mercer still had to treat the area and have it meet environmental standards. They reported the site to Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division who, in turn, placed the site on their Hazardous Site Index.
The index is a list of spaces that have had a known or suspected release of a regulated substances beyond a certain threshold, according to the EPD. Mercer joined a voluntary program to clean the space up. In total, they’ve spent over $100,000 in clean-up efforts since 2004, according to Netherton.
“We brought in tankers, pumped the groundwater out into the tankers, had them hauled off and had the chemicals remediated,” Netherton said. “We continued to do that every six months to a year until we got the level of contamination left in the groundwater down to an acceptably low, safe level and since then we’ve been monitoring it on an annual basis.”
Mercer is required to report to the EPD on an annual basis. One person who has observed the progress from the beginning is Carl Fambro, owner of Francar’s Buffalo Wings in Mercer Village. He said the site did not worry him.
“I was really not worried about it being a hazardous area because we’re talking about petroleum, not for us, a real big deal,” Fambro said. “They had one of the companies, coming around doing soil samples, taking up soil, and that’s been going on for at least 10 years.”
Fambro knew about the dry cleaners and the gas station before Mercer began working the area, but like most people, when he hears the word “hazardous,” there is cause for pause.
“‘Don’t go there!’ That’s the first thing you think about because there’s going to be something that’s going to harm you,” Fambro said.
Fambro and others who frequent The Triangle have nothing to fear. The EPD plans to remove the area from the hazardous site index by June of 2019.