"Cleaning the Dirt"

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Back in May of 2003, plans were unveiled for a $14 million judicial complex for Lowndes County. Soon after a site was selected to be the home of the new complex, tests showed significant soil pollution caused by a gas station that used to operate there.

Now, the county has begun testing the site to see how extensive the pollution is.

Joe Pritchard, Lowndes County Manager, says, "The testing is important because EPD has to approve the cleanup process and the reimbursement, wants to know to what extent the material is located here."

Testing the site for dangerous chemicals should take a few more weeks, and then a plan will be drawn up to remove the contamination.

A lot of specialized equipment has been brought in to complete this testing process, and county leaders say they're glad to finally see this work underway because it means they're one step closer to getting the new judicial complex up and running.

Pritchard adds, "We're glad to see this process because, as you said, that's just the first step, and we've got to get this behind us so we can move to the construction phase, and that's the whole point."

Luckily for local taxpayers, county leaders say the cost of this massive cleanup project should be covered entirely by state environmental cleanup funds.

The length of the cleanup process depends on the extent of the pollution, but Lowndes County officials are hopeful actual construction can begin on the new judicial complex by the fall.