Ameren starts cleanup of downtown Columbia site

Friday, January 17, 2014 | 11:23 a.m. CST; updated 4:28 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 18, 2014

COLUMBIA — Ameren Missouri has begun cleaning up about 36,000 tons of dirt contaminated with possible carcinogens at a former manufactured-gas site in downtown Columbia.

Most of the cleanup work at the site will be on the west side of the property where the soil is most polluted, said Warren Mueller, manager of environmental assessments for Ameren. There also will be some excavation of contaminated dirt on other parts of the site, which is in the North Village Arts District, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported .

A manufactured-gas plant operated at the site from 1875 to 1932, according to Ameren. The tars left behind from coal gasification can contain carcinogenic compounds.

Ameren officials expect the cleanup to run through July. The utility plans to sell the property when the work is completed.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources will oversee the cleanup and Ameren will monitor air quality while the work is ongoing.

Another part of the site that has already been cleaned up was listed with the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund program, which tracks sites contaminated with hazardous materials. In 1994, Ameren, which was then operating as Union Electric Co., paid $2.5 million to clean a portion of the site, but contaminants still remained after work was completed.

Mueller, who said contaminated dirt will be trucked to the Jefferson City landfill, said Ameren will work to ensure the contaminated soil is cleaned to DNR's standards. But he said trace levels of contaminants will likely remain when the work is finished.

"The soil's not cleaned to pristine condition," Mueller said.

DNR has to issue a completion letter for the property in order for it to be cleared for sale.

The Columbia City Council approved an agreement in 2010 giving the city the first right of refusal for the land, which means the city will be first in line to accept or deny Ameren's listing price for the property. But the city has not decided if it plans to make an offer on the property


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