EPA poised to run up a huge electric bill at Velsicol site

By Ralph Echtinaw

EPA Project Director Tom Alcamo gave city council a report last week on progress at the Velsicol Chemical contamination cleanup site.

A one-acre patch of the 54-acre site was successfully cleaned in 2018 by heating the soil to more than 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Contaminants in the soil were vaporized, rose to the surface and collected for safe disposal. Some 56,000 pounds of contaminants were removed.

Attention has now turned to Area Two, a three-acre patch that must be tackled in two phases because electricity requirements are so great.

Decontamination of Area Two is expected to cost more than $25 million, Alcamo said.

Hole drilling in Phase One of Area Two is nearly complete. There are more than 300 holes, and each is 21 feet deep.

Heating elements will be placed in each hole, and in October the electricity will be turned on. Alcamo expects to be heating Phase One of Area Two until June 2020.

Drilling in the second half of Area Two will start next month. But heating won’t begin until August 2020 and run through March 2021.

Additional On-Site Work

A contractor is removing old tanks from the prior sediment cleanup and removing debris that was left from as far back as the Velsicol slurry wall installation. This work should be completed this week. EPA is planning to evaluate the slurry wall through an investigation later this summer.

Bank sampling delayed 

Due to the wet weather, the bank sampling planned within the Pine River downstream from the high school athletic fields is delayed until the water level in the Pine River is lower.

Burn Pit

The Velsicol burn pit is located on the north shore of the Pine River and was where Velsicol burned things.

This site is contaminated with chemicals, too, and tentatively scheduled for thermal treatment. Alcamo hopes to have the design done by July.

He is in discussions with David Crumbaugh about putting access road on his property off Hebron Street so equipment can be moved to the burn pit site.

The owners of nine homes near the burn pit that have wells have agreed to accept city water at EPA expense. Two other at-risk homeowners have refused. “I’ve written them a couple letters and they’re just not interested,” Alcamo said. “Hopefully they’ll change their minds.”

Long range plans

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.


The Spring 2019 issue of the Pine River Progress Newsletter is available at https://semspub.epa.gov/work/05/946541.pdf.

Categories: Uncategorized

4 replies »

  1. The EPA paid for a dream session of how the plant site could be used once cleaned to certain standards. To my knowledge the “City” has not made any commitment to own or use the plant site.


  2. It would be a lovely piece of poetry for those of us with very real memories of what went on there to see it turned into a recreational site – occupied mainly by people who were enjoying their moments in the sun.

    I guess I wonder if there would be any continuing liability to the “city” if the cleanup wasn’t really that clean after all and folks got sick.

    Thanks for this little bit of a “paper” about our hometown Mr. Echtinaw. I suppose you’ve heard all about Clarence and Odessa Smazel by now-


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