Tom Alcamo, project manager of the EPA’s Velsicol cleanup site, said Monday that he is optimistic that funding can be found for the next stage, cleanup of a three-acre area next year.
Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency is removing harmful pollutants from a one-acre patch of the 54-acre site west of the downtown area.
They’re using a relatively new approach called in-situ thermal treatment that many EPA staffers back in the Chicago office are excited about. Press Officer Rachel Bassler said her colleagues are very interested in the Velsicol cleanup, as in-situ thermal treatment has seldom been used on such a large area.
The multimillion-dollar project involves heating the ground to a depth of 30 feet to aerosolize contaminants. The gases are then collected for later disposal.
That is done with 276 heating rods similar to what you might see inside a toaster oven. They are sunk into 276 30-foot holes. It costs a lot of money to run them. A recent month’s electric bill was $150,000. The project will be complete late this year, if all goes well.
In the fall they will start preparing the three-acre site for the same treatment, if funding comes through. Something like 750 holes must be drilled for the heating rods.
Bruce McAttee, the Mid Michigan regional director for Sen. Gary Peters, urged Alcamo to contact Sen. Peters and Congressman John Moolenaar if funding is ever in jeopardy and they will do what they can.
When the thermal treatment is finished, there will still a lot of cleanup left to do on the site. Alcamo said they would like to remove 100,000 tons of contaminated soil from the south end, where the property abuts M-46, and deal with a “burn pit” on the other side of the Pine River.
City government has long range plans to develop the entire site as parkland, which would quadruple park space in St. Louis. The plan envisions use of 21 acres for soccer fields and basketball courts, five acres for an amphitheater and nine acres for generic park use. Also wished for are three fishing platforms, a boat launch, and an “educational building,” according to the plan.
Furthermore, the city is interested in acquiring property on the north side of North Street so that the Velsicol site park could be connected via walkway to the downtown area. However, there are no funds set aside at the moment to buy that property.
If you’d like to follow progress at the Velsicol site, the EPA’s web site is the place to be. Here’s a link to it:
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