Here’s what to know about the former Brookhaven Middle School Campus
Jan 12, 2023

 

Current state

3M is currently conducting a comprehensive investigation to determine the final remediation plan for the site. Results of the investigation are anticipated to be submitted to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) for approval in early 2024.

Concurrently, 3M developed a demolition plan for the school building and potential interim use of the 15 acres. 3M is working towards decommissioning and demolition work beginning in early 2023.

3M has also proposed to take actions consistent with ADEM’s Voluntary Cleanup Program, which provides guidelines for investigating brownfields and historic landfill sites. 3M will investigate and, where appropriate, remediate historic material in the Brookhaven landfill – including materials 3M contributed as well as other industrial and municipal contributors. 3M will also monitor the site for volatile organic compounds commonly found in closed landfills. 3M is proposing participation consistent with the Program to ensure all potential environmental issues are addressed, and to help inform future plans for Brookhaven for long-term use and contributing to the community’s quality of life.

Although the site is not currently enrolled in the Voluntary Cleanup Program, 3M has elected to move forward with the investigation of volatile organic compounds at the site while the regulatory framework is being determined. The Program is separate from the 2020 Interim Consent Order between 3M and ADEM and is not associated with PFAS monitoring or remediation.

Future plans

3M will develop a strategic plan and design for the Brookhaven site that takes into consideration the final remediation plan for the site and community input on future use. The project will help strengthen the community by safely addressing issues at the closed facility and offer new opportunities for the site’s future. As the project progresses, 3M will seek input from neighbors, community leaders, and other stakeholders, including ADEM. 3M will also refer to the City of Decatur’s comprehensive “One Decatur” plan to reflect how 3M can contribute to the city’s quality of life.

3M anticipates that phase one of the project will focus on the 15-acre portion featuring the school building and activity field. 3M also plans to include the 23-acre Aquadome site and softball fields adjacent to Brookhaven in future redevelopment plans once 3M takes ownership of those portions of the property from the city as part of the October 2021 settlement with local governments and Decatur Utilities.

History

Brookhaven Middle School opened in 1971 as Decatur City School’s primary middle school campus serving students on the western side of the city. Prior to serving as a school campus, the site was a city landfill starting in the mid-1940s. As a city landfill, the site served as a location for residential and industrial waste from manufacturers in Decatur-Morgan County for approximately 20 years. The landfill was closed in 1964.

  • In January 2018, the Decatur City Schools board approved a recommendation from the superintendent to change how elementary students were distributed to middle school campuses relative to where they lived in the city. The changes rendered Brookhaven unnecessary as students from the school were assigned to alternate facilities.
  • The school closed in May 2018, though Decatur City Schools kept ownership of the property with plans to use it for professional development and surplus equipment storage. The facility continued to be used by city-administered Decatur Youth Services for limited youth development programming until August 2019, when city leaders decided to discontinue its use due to HVAC system failures and school board concerns related to ongoing ventilation issues.
  • The building has been unoccupied since mid-August 2019.

Following the detection of certain PFAS at the site in November 2019, the board of Decatur City Schools issued notice that they may bring a lawsuit against 3M, which records indicate used the former landfill for about a year. 3M reached an agreement with Decatur City Schools to take ownership of the 15-acre Brookhaven site in May 2020.

FAQs

Q: Considering its history as a former landfill, along with the clean soil cap and monitoring that is already in place, is the Brookhaven site safe for my family to enjoy?
A: Yes. Detections of PFAS in the surficial soil – the first six inches of topsoil - are below the conservative U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) soil screening levels for recreational use.

Q: What are the current monitored levels of PFAS on the Brookhaven site? 
A: PFOA and PFOS concentrations in surficial soil – the first six inches of topsoil – on the Brookhaven site range from non-detect to 11.4 ug/kg (parts per billion).

Q: In light of the EPA’s recent announcement about PFAS exposure levels, is the Brookhaven site safe for the neighborhood?
A: Yes. Detections of PFAS in the surficial soil – the first six inches of topsoil - are below the conservative EPA soil screening levels for recreational use. Residents in the vicinity of the Brookhaven site are connected to municipal water and do not use the groundwater for drinking.
 

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