The owner of the stalled Saline River Properties development said that until the Environmental Protection Agency steps in and forces Johnson Controls to clean up pollution on the property, his property is stuck in “the twilight zone.”
Tom Foley, owner of Saline River Properties, appeared before Saline City Council to explain that a federal judge denied his company’s lawsuit demanding Johnson Controls live up to a consent judgment requiring the company to clean up toxins on the property.
“The judge believed the EPA is doing everything in its power to move this forward. We obviously disagree,” Foley said. “We believed the document (the consent judgment) was a holy document with some weight and merit. Through this process, I’ve found that I’m cynical of the process.’
Foley said that he can’t move forward with the 102-unit condominium development on the 200 block of Monroe Street. He said if Saline River Properties begins moving dirt, Johnson Controls will no longer be responsible for cleaning up the mess.
“I can’t do that. So it’s a chicken or an egg. I am stuck. Until we get action, I’m in this twilight zone,” Foley said.
Saline Rivers Properties owns 15 acres of land on the 200 block of South Monroe Street. The property, located on the Saline River, once housed the city dump and a metal fabrication, plating and polishing facility that operated until 1985. Johnson Controls acquired the property through a merger.
In 2004, the EPA ordered Johnson Controls to control toxic contaminants (vinyl chloride)on the property so that they could not come into contact with people. Johnson Controls was also ordered to stabilize the migration of contaminated groundwater and the discharge of contaminated water to surface water. In 2006 Saline River Properties, which planned to build a 102-unit residential condominium complex, purchased the property. Canopus, an environmental firm hired by Saline River Properties to evaluate brownfield funding for the project, discovered volatile organic compounds in the soil underneath the building and determined an area of the property had been used to store plating waste and discovered a pipeline that appeared to lead to the waste storage area. The EPA reviewed the findings and ordered JCI to revise its corrective measures plan.
A couple city officials joined neighbors and Saline River property owners for an informal meeting Monday. The meeting did not go as hoped, Foley said.
Foley said he’s considering a legal appeal. Mayor Gretchen Driskell said the city is working with Congressional staff in hopes of forcing the EPA to move on the issue.