Jacksonville thrives after Vertac pollution 30 years ago

    7:46 PM, Apr 10, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The EPA once considered the Vertac factory site in Jacksonville one of the most polluted areas in the country, but decades later, that site has been deemed safe, and the City of Jacksonville has risen above the hazardous waste that once plagued that community.

    Like Mayflower, Jacksonville once dealt with environmental concerns. Thirty years later, that once tainted ground is now home to a growing community. It's hard to believe that this site was once home to a chemical plant, and by late 1994, more than 23,000 drums had been burned.

    During the Vietnam War, Vertac produced agent orange--a pesticide used by the U.S. Military to kill vegetation.

    Years later, it was discovered agent orange posed serious health concerns, and the Jacksonville plant was home to thousands of drums of the chemical waste.

    Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher was an alderman for The city of Jacksonville back when the Vertac situation was brought to light and said he remembers the whole ordeal.

    "Looking back at the mid 80s when we were going through our difficult time, I never would have dreamed that I'd be standing out here today raving about the blessing that this particular place is to our community."

    More than thirty years later, the EPA superfund site has been transformed into useful city land.

    Fletcher said it now houses a 40,000 square foot public safety building, a drive through recycling center and many other city offices.

    "I think anyone who would come out here and visit this ground today would tell you real quick tough times either define you or defeat you, and in this case, I think it defined this community."

    Fletcher offered this advice for the city of Mayflower as they experience their own environmental concerns and cleanup:

    "I think if you just stay faithful and work with the agencies that can help you bring closure to all of this, that the sun does come up eventually."

    The EPA visited the old Vertac site recently. Fletcher said they were impressed with its current state.

    "Ya'll have took something and done something marvelous with it. This is a great encouraging story for those communities to realize that there are better days ahead and, so I think we're an example of that, and we like to brag about that."

    In the early 90s, four separate legal actions tried to stop the incineration of the waste, but eventually courts ruled in the government's favor.

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