Dilapidated, toxic carburetor plant coming down in St. Louis

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(ST. LOUIS, AP) — Demolition at the dilapidated and toxic Carter Carburetor plant in north St. Louis is finally beginning, under the watchful eye of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Contractors were starting the process Monday of taking down the massive brick plant that was once produced carburetors for millions of American cars. It has sat vacant for years, with toxic waste bleeding down to bedrock, making it one of the most contaminated industrial environmental Superfund sites in St. Louis.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that by this time next year, the nearly half-million-square-foot factory site will be a 10-acre vacant lot. EPA spokesman David Bryan says what happens after that is the topic of ongoing discussions.
ACF Industries Inc. of St. Charles, a former owner, is responsible for tearing down the main four-story structure and an adjacent two-story building. Physical demolition is expected to be completed by April, with final cleanup finished by late 2017.
The project is expected to cost nearly $30 million.
Asbestos was removed in recent months, but special measures are needed to prevent air and further ground contamination, not to mention protecting the safety of demolition workers.
“Any type of demolition involving a Superfund site has certain issues,” Bryan said. “When you do this type of work, there will be air monitoring during the entire demolition process. We want to make sure all health and safety rules are followed. That’s the part that takes some time.”
In addition to asbestos, the site is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, toxic compounds found in the hydraulic fluid that was used in die cast machines, and from oil in electric transformers once kept there. Another contaminant at the site is trichloroethylene, or TCE, an industrial solvent that was used to degrease carburetor components.
The plant roared to life in the 1920s, and for decades, St. Louis-made Carter Carburetors were among the industry’s national standard-bearers. At one point, the factory employed about 3,000 workers.
Fuel injection replaced carburetors and by 1984, the factory was closed. Contamination was discovered at the site a short time later, leading to decades of environmental and legal wrangling over what had to be done and who had to pay for it.
Nearby residents and business owners have said the plant was both a medical hazard and an economic threat.
As people came out of Mount Herald Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday, Mavis Thompson recounted the years-long process the neighborhood has gone through trying to keep attention on getting rid of the plant.
“We are relieved that it’s finally coming down. It has been there for a long time,” said Thompson, who is city license collector for St. Louis. “I do think more development will come to the area. We’re excited.”
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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com.