Supes weigh $250k junkyard cleanup

The cleanup of theillegal Cismont junkyardthat burst into a conflagration that could be seen for miles on January 4, 2005 comes before the Albemarle Board of Supervisors today at 6pm. And some neighbors are concerned the cleanup is merely superficial. The before photo to the left was taken March 2, 2005. The after photo was taken May 31, 2007.

County staff estimates that 90 to 95 percent of the debris that littered the 16-acre site has been removed, and that it will cost $250,000 to clean up the remaining rubbish. Staff thinks it's bad precedent to take over the cleanup, and recommends working with owners Cecil and Doris Gardner to finish the job."The county report paints a rosy picture," says neighbor Pat Napoleon. "I resent that." Napoleon heard explosions the day of the 2005 fire (there was an earlier fire in 1984 that started two days after the owners were told to get rid of tires) and she worries about what was blowing up. "It was like a World War III kind of event," she says.

Napoleon plans to attend the meeting and she says some neighbors will be there who are concerned their wells were not tested. "We're more concerned with the sampling issue."

County zoning administrator Amelia McCulley says wells on the Gardner property were tested in February 2006. "A full screen of all types of contaminants came back, and no contamination was found," she says. "On-site soil sampling is completely in the baliwick of [Department of Environmental Quality]. That's something we're going to talk about tonight."

The county has received complaints about the junkyard since 1976, but erroneously believed it was "grandfathered in" when zoning changed in 1969. It wasn't until after the 2005 fire that officials looked at aerial photos taken in 1969, when the Gardners moved in, and discovered it wasn't a junkyard at that time.

"I think the county is mired in a legal situation," says Napoleon. "The Board of Supervisors refuses to return my calls."