City Council members are concerned about more than an old school when it comes to the presence of toxins at an old Southwest Decatur landfill.
Aquadome Recreation Center and the Aquadome fields, which include six baseball and softball fields and a football field, stand on the same property as Brookhaven Middle School.
3M Co., which for decades used the chemicals PFOA and PFOS at its Decatur plant for non-stick and grease repellent products like Scotchgard, announced in July it would investigate whether the toxins are present in the old Brookhaven landfill.
Last week, 3M contractor GHD Services Inc. submitted to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management a Preliminary Investigation Work Plan of the site that noted PFOA and PFOS were detected in surface water. Based on the preliminary testing results, 3M proposed that ADEM approve more thorough monitoring of the site.
Council President Paige Bibbee and Councilman Charles Kirby were the only council members to attend Monday’s work session so it had to be canceled for lack of a quorum.
Bibbee and Kirby said they are worried about the the Aquadome recreation properties because, like Brookhaven, they sit on the old landfill.
For years, the city had problems with the outfield of what was previously known as the American League Field for Decatur Dixie Youth Baseball. The area behind second base would slowly sink, and the city would bring large loads of dirt to fill in the dip.
Kirby said he was suspicious about the property before the testing began. There’s also a drainage ditch that runs through the property and eventually connects with Dry Creek, which empties into the Tennessee River. PFOA and PFOS were found in water and sediment in the ditch, according to the GHD report.
“I took a lot of grief for suggesting independent testing,” Kirby said. “There are some real problems on that site, and we may need to do our own testing.”
Bibbee, who led the push to move Decatur Youth Services out of Brookhaven this summer, said it’s important that city officials “act responsibly."
“I’m very concerned about any report that affects our quality of life. Right now, I don’t have any information except for what I’ve seen in the media,” Bibbee said.
According the Parks and Recreation Department’s website, the city spent $740,000 when it built the Aquadome that opened April 7, 1969. The dome itself was 100 feet in diameter with 36 Plexiglas panels, and it was once the largest domed pool in the nation.
However, Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake said the pool and the rest of the facility on Fifth Avenue Southwest are beginning to show their age.
“We need to start looking at a plan for all of our swimming pools,” said Lake, who said last summer the city also needs to begin making plans to replace the aging Point Mallard wave pool that opened a year later.
Bibbee said she and Lake did an internet search to see how other cities dealt with similar situations. She said she wouldn’t be surprised if the city has to clear the landfill site and “cap it properly” when testing is complete. She doesn’t believe the city will be able to build another recreation building there.
“Then we can probably use it for ballfields and maybe a green space,” Bibbee said.
3M and its contractor evaluated surface water at the site for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. The most studied chemicals in the PFAS family are PFOA and PFOS, which have both been linked to cancer, low birth weight and other ailments.
GHD collected surface water samples that were tested for PFAS by a 3M lab. PFOA and PFOS were found in all the water and sediment samples, except for a sample from a pipe used to drain the Aquadome pool.
While groundwater was not tested because existing monitor wells were not functional, testing found the highest concentrations in water collected “from a pipe believed to drain the athletic field which may have contained groundwater.”