Mill

(Carmen Rodgers) Now that phase one of the east side mill cleanup project is complete, phase two of site cleanup is set to begin in January and is estimated to take around 4 months to complete.

It has been over four years since a massive fire at the eastside mill left the complex in ruin.

Today, many in the community are questioning the fate of the charred property.

According to Tallassee Mayor Johnny Hammock, city officials are working closely with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Corporation (CARPDC) to oversee the detailed and systematic cleanup project at the massive complex.

"We just wrapped our Phase 1 assessment," Hammock said.

Phase 1 consisted of searching the history of the mill site such as purchase records and other dated files.

"Maybe the mill bought diesel fuel in 1942 or starch. It's a records check," Hammock explained.

Now that Phase 1 is complete, the cleanup project will receive additional federal funding.

"The EPA is going to give ADEM some money to do a Phase 2 on the mill property for us,” Hammock said. “That's money that the city doesn't have to pay.”

The next phase will include sampling the soil at the site, according to Hammock.

"They will do soil samples and things like that all over those 26 acres to make sure nothing has seeped into the ground,” he said. “Gasoline, hydraulic fluid, things that could be contaminants in the soil that may be getting into the water.”

Phase 2 of the eastside mill site cleanup is set to begin in January and is estimated to take around four months to complete.

"We'll probably wrap it up around April," Hammock said.

If contaminants are found at the mill site, the city can move forward with further federal funding for cleanup.

"The Brownfield grants open up Oct. 1, which we should finish that up in April, and write one for this cycle if we have some contaminants," Hammock said.

If there are no contaminants found at the mill complex, then city officials would seek alternative funding to clean the site.

Hammock reached out to mayors across the state who have dealt with a cleanup of similar scope, including Athens Mayor William Marks."They had a chicken plant on 32 acres that they paid a company half a million dollars to come in and clean up," he said.

Because the eastside mill complex is so large, the cleanup process will take time, and city officials must go through the appropriate channels to complete the task at hand.

"This is a huge industrial factory that burnt," Hammock said.

"This is going to be a massive cleanup. We have to go through the proper steps to make sure there are no contaminants in the soil. Everyone needs to be patient. We're working on it."

Hammock said he gave the people of Tallassee his word the site will be cleaned up and he plans to stand behind that guarantee.

"I made you a promise. I didn't know when it was going to get cleaned up, but I promise to work tirelessly until it is cleaned up as long as I am the mayor,” Hammock said. “For the next four years, this is right up there as one of the top priorities of this administration.”

The eastside mill is located adjacent to Tallassee City Hall and the eyesore is something Hammock has to see on a daily basis.

"I can promise you, no one wants it cleaned up more than me," he said. "I have to look at it every day. I work here right beside it. I hear it on Facebook, the phone calls, the emails. I promise that I will do everything in my power that we are financially able to do."

However, to be fiscally responsible, Tallassee's city officials must be patient and Hammock asked residents to do the same.

"If ADEM is going to partner with us and give us some free soil samples, we are going to have to wait until January to get it done. That's thousands and thousands of dollars that we don't have to spend," Hammock said.