Cleanup resumes at former chemical plant site in Michigan

Associated Press
This photo taken Jan. 10, 2019, shows the former Velsicol Plant across the Pine River, in St. Louis, Mich.

St. Louis – Cleanup work has resumed at a former chemical plant in central Michigan that’s become one of the country’s costliest Superfund sites.

An Environmental Protection Agency official, Thomas Alcamo, told that it could still take another seven years to finish cleaning up the Velsicol Chemical plant site in St. Louis, Michigan.

“I could see this going six or seven more years, it’s really funding-dependent for a lot of it,” Alcamo said. “It’s extremely expensive.”

Volatile organic chemicals, such as DDT and polybrominated biphenyls, were left behind at the site when the plant closed roughly 40 years ago, seeping into the soil. The chemical DDT was also found to have leaked into the Pine River after the plant closed in 1978, costing over $100 million to clean up.

The first phase of the cleanup process at the site wrapped up last fall, but the second phase that’s underway covers an area that’s three times larger, the Morning Sun reported .

Workers removed nearly 30 tons of contaminated soil during the first phase. About 100,000 tons are planned for removal from the second area by 2021.

Workers will be using a process to remove chemicals from the soil by inserting metal rods into the ground, which heat the chemicals to boiling. The chemicals are then siphoned off and destroyed.

Alcamo said the second phase of the cleanup is estimated to cost up to $25 million, while the following phase will cost up to $20 million.

Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force, an EPA-sanctioned community group that’s overseeing cleanup of the Superfund site, expressed concern about the toxic substance DBCP buried at the site. The chemical, which has been used as a soil fumigant and pesticide, is believed to lead to several health risks, such as decreased sperm counts in males.

Jane Keon, the task force’s secretary, said the air will be monitored around the site so that they can react to any potential exposure.