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EPA Says Workers Are Done Cleaning Up Carter Carburetor Superfund Site In St. Louis

This photo of the former Carter Carburetor plant was taken in Aug. 2011, prior to the start of the cleanup.
File Photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio
Workers are finished with cleaning up the Carter Carburetor Superfund site, though some administrative work remains before officials can declare it ready for redevelopment.

After six years of building demolitions and excavations, workers have finished cleaning up the Carter Carburetor Superfund site in north St. Louis. 

The site, the former location of an oil and diesel carburetor manufacturing plant, closed in 1984. Nearly a decade later, the Environmental Protection Agency included it in the federal Superfund program, which investigates and cleans up hazardous waste sites. It left behind high levels of heavy metals and toxic chemicals, like PCBs, that are known to cause cancer.

EPA placed the site Wednesday on the Administrator’s Emphasis List, a short list of Superfund sites that require the most immediate attention. The listing will expedite the process of making the 10-acre site ready for redevelopment, said Adam Ruiz, a Superfund program manager. 

“It allows us to continue to evaluate any kind of obstacles that might be in the way to get the site down the road towards redevelopment,” Ruiz said. “Being on the list allows us to ensure there’s a timely resolution of those issues.” 

The cleanup work involved removing asbestos from contaminated buildings, demolishing the buildings, excavating soil that contains toxic materials and capping the rest of the contamination that could not be removed. The $30 million in remediation work was funded by a 2013 settlement between EPA and railcar manufacturer ACF Industries, which is responsible for the site. 

The site has long been an eyesore for residents in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood. While local residents rejoiced to see the cleanup process begin in 2013, some are concerned about the contamination that was capped in the “die cast area,” said Mosella Miles-Washington, a resident who has lived a half-mile from the site for 50 years. 

“We haven’t been told how long that material’s going to last, and if it’s going to last, then we’ll still have contamination,” Miles-Washington said. 

The former factory used die casting machines to mold the metal that the carburetors are made of. The machines used hydraulic fluid that contaminated the site with high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a chemical that causes malignant melanoma and rare liver cancers. 

The Administrator’s Emphasis List, which contains 17 sites, previously included the West Lake Landfill Superfund site in Bridgeton. It was taken off the list after federal officials released a remediation plan in September 2018. 

An administrative process needs to be completed before removing the Carter Carburetor site from the Superfund program, EPA officials said. 

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Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.