Portsmouth neighborhood sits on contaminated soil

Portsmouth neighborhood sits on contaminated soil

Credit: Mike Babcock, 13News

This Portsmouth neighborhood is being cleaned up because the soil is contaminated.

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by By Doug Aronson, 13News Investigator

WVEC.com

Posted on July 12, 2002 at 5:50 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 30 at 3:03 PM

Swimming Point is one of Portsmouth's nicest neighborhoods. Many homes in Olde Towne have views of the water and Downtown Norfolk.

But looks can be deceiving. Five homes on Washington Street are getting makeovers, compliments of ColumbiaGas of Virginia.

And in some areas, crews are chopping down trees and testing the air quality.

A few years ago, while working on a nearby project, Columbia Gas discovered the homes in Swimming Point were built over contaminated soil and groundwater. The contamination, primarily from a chemical known as coal tar, was a by-product from the days in the 1850's-1950's when Portsmouth's gas plant sat on the site.

It's known that long-term exposure to the chemicals increases the risk of cancer. Columbia Gas, which bought the old plant, now has responsibility to clean things up.

Real estate records show the company purchased three homes, each valued at more than $200,000. It's also paying to relocate two other homeowners.

That's in addition to the cost of all the work being done. "We're putting in new soil, irrigation systems, re-landscaping properties," explained Bob Innes with Columbia Gas.

Several years ago, the city of Norfolk and Virginia Power ran into a similar problem at the corner of Monticello Avenue and Virginia Beach Boulevard. The decision was made to contain the contamination and put up a parking lot.

But Columbia Gas can't do that in residential Swimming Point.

The company plans on taking the entire summer and early fall to get the homes in shape for re-sale. The company says it's already talked to an interested buyer.

The Swimming Point Homeowner's Association president told 13News the concerns residents really have aren't health related. They're more concerned about the aesthetics.

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