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Residents are raising concerns about plans to clean up land slated for the Louisville Urban League’s Sports and Learning Complex.
The complex is being built on a brownfield at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard — contaminated soil where an old tobacco plant used to be. At a Russell Neighborhood Association forum Wednesday, officials said the Urban League will pay around $315,000 to cap the contaminated soil and truck in some new soil. Louisville is funding the cleanup with a $350,000 grant from its federally-funded Brownfield Cleanup Loan Program, and as part of its agreement with the city the Urban League must pay out-of-pocket to annually inspect the cap.
Metro Government Brownfields and Community Engagement Strategist Allison Smith said the city believes this method will be sufficient to protect public health.
“When it’s capped, there is no contact with it. So the effect on public health is potentially minuscule because, again, you have to actually have direct contact with it for it to affect you,” she said. “So it’s the same protection on public health as if you removed it.”
Completely removing the soil would have been more expensive: around $459,200. But resident Alicia Fox said the Urban League should have paid more to remove the soil completely.
“Is really $100,000 so much more to raise considering the long term effect?” Fox said. “That $100,000 is going to not have us continuously monitor to make sure the area is safe, to not have to spend that long-term money.
Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds broke ground on the site last month; at the time, she said the organization had raised about $19 million of the project’s estimated $40 million cost. Officials have praised the site since plans for it were announced last year and welcomed its potential benefits for west Louisville neighborhoods. But neighborhood activist Jackie Floyd said the Urban League has not communicated with residents about many aspects, including environmental cleanup, since winning approval for the development.
“If you’re building something in the community, you’re developing something in the community, then you know people are going to have these questions,” Floyd said. “The bottom line is it is [their] responsibility to educate the community about their facility.”
Capping for the brownfield starts September 19. Representatives of the Urban League were unavailable for comment Thursday.