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Lake City Landfill Leaking

Oct 22, 2003 | The Examiner

An old abandoned landfill at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant has become the center of attention as the U.S. Army attempts to clean up contamination seeping from land under its control.

The old landfill was used between the 1940s and 1980s. The landfill and other sites around the grounds are contaminated with toxic chemicals used to make rocket fuel and explosives, metals used to make ammunition and other material waste from weapons manufacturing. Depleted uranium rounds for anti-tank weapons had been manufactured at the plant in the past, but the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission removed the base from its list of managed sites in October 2001.

Hundreds of monitoring wells have been placed around the grounds in an attempt to locate areas of concern. Two of the wells recently picked up high concentrations of perchlorate, a toxin used in the manufacture of rocket fuel. Perchlorate can cause thyroid and brain growth problems if consumed in drinking water.

The U.S. Army hired several companies to tackle the contamination problems and make sure nothing is spreading outside of the fence around Lake City.

One company, T&N Associates, has been repairing and resealing the old 8.28 acre landfill.

Gary Vogelsong, project manager, said the landfill has been cracking on the surface due to settling and past construction errors. He said many of the cracks are five to six feet deep and anywhere from one to two feet wide. The depth of the safety cap on the landfill is anywhere from one to six feet under the surface, so it is likely the cap has been compromised by the cracking. Rain water gushes into the cracks and washes contaminants into a nearby creek, which can then carry them outside the fence.

Vogelsong said his company has located all the cracks, and is busy digging them up and filling them with compacted material. The company has also been taking measures to slow rainwater runoff from the hill.

A document is being put together outlining a plan to create a new wetland at the base of the landfill, to capture runoff and allow it to settle among aquatic plants that can absorb toxins. The document will be released for a 30-day public review on Nov. 17. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources must then approve the document. The Army Corps of Engineers would like to have the wetland constructed by spring or summer of 2004.

The U.S. Army also hired a company called Arcadis, which was awarded a guaranteed fixed price contract to clean up the grounds. Details of the contract were not released to the public, because the negotiations were declared confidential.

Lee Ann Smith, project manager for Arcadis, said the intent of her company is to restore the land to a safe and useful level. Her company will work closely with regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Arcadis will begin collecting groundwater data immediately and then develop a model that will contain contaminants on site. The goal is to have remedies in place by 2007.

"We believe we are going to be able to take care of the majority of these issues with several basic remedies," Smith said. "If we just took the money and walked away without solving the problems we wouldn't be in business very long."

Smith said some of the strategies her company may use include building retaining berms, removing contaminated soils, and attracting contaminant cleaning insects by injecting cheese whey or molasses into the soil near boundaries.

Neighbors who are members of the Lake City Restoration Advisory Board were skeptical about the whole plan.

"For years we've heard that this wasn't going to be cleaned up in several lifetimes. Now, in several board meetings, we hear it's going to be cleaned up within the next few years," said Greg Perry, neighbor and board member. "I guess I'll stay cautiously optimistic, but I have fuzzy feelings about this."

Perry was concerned about the contract with Arcadis being a fixed- price contract. He said this encouraged the cheapest, quickest remedies to be put in place.

"Contamination has been a major problem around here for years and now Arcadis is going to come in, dig a couple holes, squirt in some Cheez Whiz and this is all going to be fixed? I still have serious concerns about this," Perry said.

Perry said Lake City was built on one of the largest aquifers in the area and over the years, waste has just been dumped wherever it was most convenient. His biggest concern is that contaminants are seeping into a groundwater plume and being carried all over the county from there.

"I didn't become a member of the advisory board to just nod my head and go along with whatever they decide. I want these problems fixed correctly," Perry said.

Other members of the board pleaded with Army officials to get them information before the decisions are made, instead of afterward when it doesn't matter any more.

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