EPA doing emergency cleanup at St. Louis athletic fields

Posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting an emergency response cleanup at the St. Louis High School practice fields and athletic complex after tests showed the presence of DDT in the soil. (Herald photos – Nelson)

 

by Greg Nelson

Herald Editor

Earlier this year the St. Louis High School athletic complex and practice fields were found to be contaminated with DDT.

However, the levels found do not pose a risk to human health, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials.

The fields are adjacent to the Pine River, which experienced severe flooding in 1986 and the last couple of springs.

The area includes both the baseball and football fields.

Sampling along the river bank near the footbridge behind the high school revealed the DDT contamination, EPA Project Manager Tom Alcamo told members of the Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force at that time.

The agency used a geoprobe to take additional soil samples to get better vertical and lateral delineations regarding the location of the contamination.

The school recently learned the cleanup has qualified for Emergency Removal Action funding from the EPA.

Jon Gulch, EPA project manager for the agency’s Emergency Response Branch, told task force members during a recent meeting that excavation of the practice field, discus and long jump areas and along the fence west of the footbridge was scheduled to begin last week.

Even though the DDT levels were not a risk to human health, the remediation was approved because it fit in with other ecological cleanup projects already taking place in St. Louis, including the one in the nine block neighborhood near the former Velsicol Chemical Co. plant site and downstream on the Pine River.

Without the Emergency Response Active declaration the school property would not have been remediated until sometime in 2016.

The athletic fields will be cleaned to a level of 5 parts per million DDT, the same as the residential area.

Mobilization for the work has already started with excavation beginning last week, even though school was still in session.

Gulch has met with St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kristi Teall to coordinate the work around sports team schedules.

They are preparing a letter that will be sent to the parents of all students describing the athletic field cleanup that will be taking place.

The Board of Education has already approved replacing the old footbridge with a new structure. That work is also underway.

Cleanup crews plan to excavate to depths of from one to two feet, with hand digging taking place in the long jump area of the track.

Remediation is expected to be completed by mid-July.

According to task force members, it’s the first time “critical removal” has ever been done for ecological reasons in this area.