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Luminous Processors Case Study

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Photo of Luminous site.

Before: Workers clean radioactive contamination at the site.

After: McDonald's restaurant on the former Luminous Processor site.

  • Soil contaminated with radium-226 and tritium. Buildings and debris contaminated with radioactive waste.
  • 18,000 cubic feet of contaminated soils excavated
  • Contaminated buildings and debris removed
  • Site backfilled with clean soil and grass planted
  • U.S. EPA
  • Georgia Department of Natural Resources
  • Local Community
  • McDonald’s
Short Term
  • 38 short-term jobs during five months of cleanup
  • $920,000+ in annual income resulting from short-term cleanup jobs
  • 26 permanent/full-time jobs with McDonald’s
  • $430,000 in total annual income and $340,000+ in spending resulting from permanent jobs
  • Public health in busy commercial region protected
  • Spread of radioactive contamination to surrounding areas prevented
  • Aesthetic quality of area due to landscape improvement enhanced
  • New playground for children constructed
Last Updated January 1999

Luminous Processors
Athens, Georgia

Radioactive waste site from the manufacture of luminous watch and clock dials

McDonald's fast food restaurant and outdoor children's playground

Local jobs and income, increased property values, increased public revenues

If you drive today along the Atlanta Highway on the outskirts of Athens, Georgia, there are no signs that a radioactive hazardous waste site once blighted the landscape. What you see instead is an abundance of commercial activity, including shopping malls, gas stations, and restaurants. In fact, a McDonald’s restaurant currently sits on top of the former hazardous waste site called the Luminous Processors Superfund site. As it does with many contaminated sites across the country, EPA cleaned up the property to enable redevelopment to occur. What follows is the story of how EPA worked with the community and the State of Georgia to return this property to productive use, and the economic, environmental, and social impacts that have resulted.

Site Snapshot

From 1952 to 1978, Luminous Processors operated its manufacturing facility on a 1-acre site alongside Highway 78, the Atlanta Highway. The company made glow-in-the-dark watch and clock dials, popular and useful household items. But the dials glowed because they were painted with radioactive isotopes. When Luminous Processors abandoned the site in 1980, the company left behind not only an empty building, but also soil contaminated with high levels of radioactive waste.

From Radiation...

In 1981, EPA placed the Luminous Processors property on its list of high-priority Superfund sites. Shortly after its listing, EPA awarded funds to the State of Georgia for the cleanup of the site. With this assistance, workers were able to remove contaminated soil and hazardous waste and debris from the property. They also backfilled excavated areas with clean soil, seeded the areas with grass, and fenced in the property. The entire cleanup was completed in only five months, and in December, 1982, the site was deleted from EPA’s Superfund site list. What had once been a 1-acre patch of radioactive waste was now a grassy site ready for new construction.

...To Redevelopment

While the Luminous site was being cleaned up, developers were building the Georgia Square Mall, an 830,000-square-foot shopping center, across the street. This and other commercial growth in the area attracted the attention of the McDonald’s Corporation, which saw a potential market in the large number of hungry shoppers being drawn to the mall. McDonald’s purchased the Luminous property in 1990 and built a restaurant, complete with an outdoor playground. Because EPA’s cleanup was so thorough, McDonald’s was able to redevelop the property without liability concerns. In fact, so complete is the transformation that few people today realize that the property was once a radioactive waste site.

Community Benefits

The replacement of a dangerous eyesore with a successful restaurant has had an enormous impact on the surrounding community. The rapid and successful cleanup of the Luminous Processors property has ensured the protection of human health and the environment, while the restaurant itself has provided local jobs and revenue. With a thriving business replacing an abandoned, contaminated factory, property values at and around the site have also increased. The aesthetic improvements and the commercial vitality of the area continue to attract new businesses, bringing further economic and social benefits to the community.

Keys to Success

EPA’s partnership with the State of Georgia and the local community was key to the successful redevelopment of the Luminous Processors site. This cooperation was crucial to developing a cleanup plan that satisfied everyone’s concerns. Community members had input into EPA’s and the state’s redevelopment planning as well. The site’s comprehensive cleanup minimized potential liability concerns, making the property suitable for redevelopment at a critical time when other development was occurring in the surrounding area. This cooperative effort among EPA, the state, the local community and corporate interests is bringing positive results to the local economy, the environment, and area residents today, and will continue to do so for years to come.

For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the Luminous site, contact:

Georgia Natural Resources Department
Hazardous Waste Corrective Action Division
205 Butler Street, Suite 1154
Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 657-8600