Phone: (314) 843-0102
Fax: (314) 843-0508
flag image

Additional PCB contamination discovered on northern 20 acres of National Lead site


Environmental engineers from St. Louis based Shannon And Wilson drew this map to show where testing revealed PCB contamination at the National Lead site. Green circles indicate no contaminates found and large red circles indicate numerous and significate discoveries of contamination. Orange and yellow indicate declining levels of contamination at those locations.
Additional PCB contamination discovered on northern 20 acres of National Lead site


For the Call

On the same day that the St. Louis County Port Authority voted to accept a $1 million grant to clean up petrochemical spills at the southern end of the former National Lead site in Lemay, engineers unveiled ominous findings on the northern 20 acres at the site.

"When we started going to the north end, we started finding PCBs at deeper locations and we also started finding slightly different types of PCBs,'' said Murray Meierhoff, senior associate with Shannon and Wilson Inc. a St. Louis-based environmental consultant.

Meierhoff told the board April 8 that PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls used in paints and caulks to maintain elasticity. The chemicals were banned in 1979 because they were a suspected cause of cancer.

"We were told originally, (contamination) had occurred due to a transformer spill after vandalism at the site in the mid-'80s,'' Meierhoff said. "We expected this to be a relatively small cleanup in terms of area of extent and also the depth of the cleanup. It turns out that (the area) was bigger than what we anticipated.''

Meierhoff explained how he believed the contamination came to the site and why it was buried underneath three to 15 feet of topsoil. But board member Bud Schertel's question about how to proceed with the cleanup was preempted by Elaine Wright, Port Authority attorney.

"Well, I don't think that's (a solution) been determined at this point,'' Wright said. "We'll talk a little more about that later.''

Using aerial photographs taken in 1964 and 1996, Meierhoff told the board how he believes the PCBs came to be distributed at depth across the 20-acre site.

Meierhoff pointed to the 1964 view and called the board's attention to a concave "bowl'' area which he said resembled an oil refinery where NL Industries had "lots of calciners cooking ore.''

The depth of the "bowl,'' he said, was ranged from three feet at the edges to 15 feet near the center.

After NL Industries decided to close the plant, most of the concrete buildings were demolished and back-filled into the bowl area, Meierhoff told the board.

"The fill material that occurs here we think came from the MSD plant over here (pointing to a map at the adjacent MSD waste water treatment facility) when they went to secondary treatment in the mid-'80s and they dug all the clarifiers and basins over there,'' Meierhoff said. "So what we find is that the dirt is primarily clean. The surface dirt from MSD, that doesn't have PCBs.

"When we get through the dirt and go underneath into the rubble that remains from what was demolished from that aerial photo that you see and also into what would have been the surface for NL during its operation — that's where we find the PCBs,'' he said.

"Most of these chemicals were inside the plant, and once the plant was demolished, it was inside the hole,'' said Jackie Wellington, senior vice president of real estate/community development for the Economic Council. "So because there is clean soil over the top, that says this is not something that happened during your ownership.''

When contacted by the Call, NL Industries' Operations Manager Doug Weaver declined to comment until he could review records of the Lemay operation.

At the same meeting last week, the board accepted a $1 million grant from the St. Louis Regional Empowerment Zone to clean up surface petroleum and PCB spills on the lower 60 acres where RV dealer Butch Thomas plans to open a park for recreational vehicles.

The empowerment zone was created by the federal government three years ago to spur economic growth in economically distressed portions of the metropolitan region.

"They told me they're going to cordon off that northern 20 acres,'' Thomas said. "My request was for 35 of the 80 acres. They seem to think they can make that work. They tell me the cleanup will be complete by October.''

  • Aunt Maggie's on Main
Site Search

Impact News
History lesson
Legislators scramble to meet budget deadline
A dozen positions may be eliminated in Crestwood without cutting services
Crestwood Ward 2 voters return Trueblood to office
Crestwood may seek approval of fire tax
Legislators return to work after break
With approval of $14.1 million bond issue, Lindbergh ready to hit the ground running
Mehlville window, door work resumes after judge’s ruling
Port Authority rescinds Futuresouth lease; request for gaming proposals issued
Only one contested race in municipalities
Type in your zip code and click "Go" to get your 7-day forecast.