Plan in place for polluted St. Louis site

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A polluted 10-acre eyesore in St. Louis is about to be cleaned up.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that after years of complaints from elected officials and neighbors, the old Carter Carburetor plant site is getting a rebirth.

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., Mayor Francis Slay and Environmental Protection Agency officials are planning a news conference Monday to discuss the future of the site.

ACF Industries of St. Charles is a successor to the company that owned Carter Carburetor. The agreement with ACF comes more than two years after the EPA approved a $27 million cleanup plan at the Superfund site.

The old carburetor plant, established near the old Sportsman’s Park in the 1930s, was once an economic pillar of north St. Louis. It employed 3,000 at its peak.

The business declined as automakers phased out carburetors. The factory closed in 1984. Today, the red-brick building is rotting with shattered windows and weeds dotting the asphalt parking lot on North Grand Boulevard.

Contamination was suspected in the late 1980s, prompting the property to be referred to the EPA’s Superfund program in 1993. The site includes 30,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The soil also contains trichloroethylene, or TCE, a toxic solvent used to clean and degrease carburetor components. The buildings contain asbestos.

Neighbors say cleanup is vital to the revitalization of the neighborhood.

“I’m tired of looking at it,” said Tebron Graham, 37, who works at TB’s Barber and Beauty Salon across the street. “I think it should be torn down.”

Cleanup plans approved by the EPA in 2011 called for demolishing the main four-story manufacturing building and hauling away contaminated rubble.

Thermal probes inserted into the ground will heat the soil to 635 degrees to vaporize TCE. Vapors will be captured by a vacuum and cleaned.

The same method was approved for removal of PCBs. But those plans were abandoned after environmental and neighborhood activists questioned whether it would produce dioxin-like compounds. Instead, the recent agreement between EPA and ACF Industries calls for PCB-contaminated soil to be excavated and removed.

What happens after cleanup is unclear. Gloria Townsend, 45, sees historic value and potential to rehab the main building.

“Get us some jobs,” she said. “The only problem I see is it’s vacant.”

Others want the structure demolished.

Deshawn Stewart, 39, grew up in the neighborhood and has watched the plant decay. He’d like to see the site redeveloped as a sports complex.

“We don’t have nothing to offer the kids,” he said.

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