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DuPont Settlement Causing Controversy with Waynesboro Officials

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DuPont facility in Waynesboro DuPont facility in Waynesboro
WAYNESBORO, Va. (WVIR) -

The city of Waynesboro is getting stiffed in the final plan to improve the South River after decades of mercury contamination from the DuPont factory.

"I’m as unhappy that there isn’t a set aside as well but ya know our community is not going to step over a dollar to pick up a dime,” Terry Short, Waynesboro Vice Mayor, said.

Just last week marked two decades since the discovery of mercury contamination along a 100-mile stretch of the river. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state have finalized a restoration plan.

Waynesboro is ground zero when it comes to DuPont's mercury contamination in the South River.

"So here we are 40 years later and I think we have a great story to tell," Short said.

Now, $50 million is up for grabs and Waynesboro wants it's cut.

"Of the $50 million or so about $12 million of it is set aside for specific things that were identified initially by the trustees that they would like to accomplish leaving about $38 million not yet assigned to any specific project,” Short said.

That money is what is causing the most controversy in the finalized restoration plan. Trustees who oversaw the settlement with DuPont received more than 60 public comments on the proposal.

Some concerns included recreational use and ecological damage to the river. In a 24-page response to the comments, the trustees do not mention directly funding projects in Waynesboro.

"First impressions are there are still no specific projects for Waynesboro, they do mention that there number of opportunities that Waynesboro might be able to submit, proposals too that might restore water quality in the river so we're hopeful that they'll come up with a criteria, set of criteria to evaluate those proposals that will make Waynesboro successful in getting some of this money," Tom Benzing, research scientist, said.

Short says the city is working hard to get its due share, because this is where the South River contamination started.

"We can either scream really loudly that we didn't get $12 million or work really hard to make sure we get a significant part of the 38, and that’s exactly what we are going to do," Short said.

The vice mayor says the city can’t predict when the judge will sign off on the consent decree which will put the money in the trustees' hands.

This has to happen before they can accept applications for project funding from groups impacted along the river.