The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 13, 2012

Kansas Department of Health and Environment proposes clean up plan at former EaglePicher smelter site

$6.5 million from ’05 bankruptcy settlement to be used for project

GALENA, Kan. — Officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Monday outlined a plan to clean up contamination at the former EaglePicher smelter on old Route 66.

The officials presented the information at a special meeting of the Galena City Council.

“We’re moving forward with remediation of one of the final pieces of contaminated property in Galena,” said Mayor Dale Oglesby, calling the plan “momentous.”

The smelter began operation in 1878 and continued operating for a good part of the following century. It processed lead, zinc and cadmium ores to produce those metals and zinc oxide, zinc sulfide, manganese sulfate, manganese dioxide and sulfuric acid. There also is mercury contamination on the property

It is part of the Tri-State District’s mining legacy that provided decades of prosperity for some and lingering decades of environmental damage.

The 68 acres of the former smelter will be cleaned up using $6.5 million from EaglePicher’s 2005 Chapter 11 bankruptcy settlement.

Rick Bean, KDHE section chief, said several years of investigation and assessment came before development of the plan. He said the project should begin the cleanup in June or July 2013, and it should take two or three months.

Another concern is Short Creek, which flows east to west across the back of the property, said Martin Knuth, vice president of Civil and Environmental Consultants Inc., the contractor for the job. He said there are piles of contaminated material that come into contact with Short Creek, especially during periods of heavy rainfall.

The project will involve moving 275,000 cubic yards of waste from the property, and from the sediment in Short Creek, to form a 40-foot-high mound on the east side of the property. Christopher Carey, a KDHE unit chief, called the mound a “consolidated cell.”  He said the waste would be covered with a liner, a geosynthetic drainage layer and two feet of topsoil that would be seeded.

The mound, which would be designed to appear natural, would be fenced.

The plan was designed to prevent human exposure to the contamination and the prevent further environmental degradation.

Carey said when the project is finished, the cleaned property should be available for development, but not housing.

“Our goal here is nonresidential use,” he said.

“It will look just like a natural mound when it’s done?” asked Councilman Paul Allen. He was told it would

Bean also complimented city officials on the Main Street project.

“It’s incredible some of the things you’re doing,” he said.

Comment period

Public comment on the plan is open through Aug. 23. They may be mailed to: KDHE Bureau of Environmental Remediation, attention: Maura O’Halloran, 1000 S.W. Jackson St., Suite 410, Topeka, KS 66612. Comments also may be emailed to O’Halloran, the project manager, at mohalloran@kdheks.gov. A copy of the plan is available for inspection at Galena City Hall, or on the KDHE website.

 

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