Carter Carburetor Citizens Advocacy Group


May 19, 2011


EPA Begins Testing Neighboring Properties of Carter Carburetor

(ST. LOUIS, MO)-In response to criticism about incomplete data, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun testing properties surrounding the contaminated Carter Carburetor site to determine if residents face any health risks from contaminants that can move off the Carter site. The EPA plans to test properties neighboring the Carter Carburetor Superfund site at St. Louis Ave. and Grand Ave. in north St. Louis to see how much of the contamination may have moved into soil off-site where it can then become airborne and can be inhaled.

The EPA has a plan to treat two of the most contaminated areas on the site but does not have data to determine off-site contamination. One on-site area is contaminated because Trichloroethylene (TCE), a chlorinated industrial solvent, leaked from storage tanks. The other area is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a cancer-causing chemical once used in electrical transformers that were disassembled at the former Die Cast building on the site (the Die Cast building has since been demolished). The PCB contamination at Carter Carburetor extends down to bedrock in some places and contaminates an area encompassing about 30,000 cubic yards of soil. PCBs are found in the soil at alarmingly high concentrations (more than 200,000 parts per million). Portions of the building also contain PCB contamination.

Representatives of the Carter Carburetor Citizens Advocacy Group (CCCAG) questioned the EPA’s use of a technology for the clean up earlier this year when the agency first proposed it. CCCAG’s analysis of the proposed plan the Environmental Protection Agency is considering for the site found that youth were not part of the risk assessment equations used to determine how much of the cancer-causing contaminants to leave at the site. Children did not factor into the contractor’s risk assessment and the proposed plan for the cleanup of Carter Carburetor, despite its proximity to the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club and residences.

“Because heating PCBs can lead to the formation of dioxins, the on site heat-treatment plan the EPA wants to use for clean up is questionable,” said Kathleen Logan Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “PCBs are not very volatile. This, coupled with a flawed risk assessment that okays a higher cancer risk for area children, suggests to us that this technology won’t be a clean clean up.”

CCCAG expects EPA to announce a public meeting in June to discuss the results from testing


More background

A review of EPA’s proposed plan found adolescents at the site would be exposed to an unacceptable and unlawful excessive cancer risk. The Center for the Environment, Health & Justice conducted the review for the Carter Carburetor Citizens Advocacy Group (CCCAG), an ad hoc group of community volunteers committed to cleanup of the site.

Despite discovery of these and many other deficiencies, the EPA closed its comment period at the end of January on the plan to address the Carter Carburetor site, declining CCCAG’s request for an extension of time to comment on the Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EECA) for the site.  The EECA was prepared by contractors for the parties responsible for the contamination at the site.

Among the other troubling findings of the EECA report are:

  • The levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, a substance linked to neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children, skin conditions, and cancer) at the site are astronomical- up to 270,000 parts per million (27%), or as the EPA has described it, “a pool of PCBs” in the ground.
  • Testing at the site is insufficient because it is limited to four areas.  Testing should have to prove that other areas on the site are not contaminated as well, particularly since the contaminants involved, PCBs and Trichloroethylene (TCE), and have some degree of mobility and pose significant health risks to the community.
  • The proposed clean up technology was rejected even by the EPA at first because it has not been proven effective to treat on PCBs. No evidence is provided as to why EPA reversed its position on this, nor is any evidence provided that the technology works on PCBs.
  • Risks from inhaling toxic vapors from the contaminants at the site were not calculated despite the fact that TCE and other volatile chemicals can vaporize, can migrate in soil, and might find other exposure pathways.
  • Risks to adjacent property owners from toxic vapors that can migrate through soil were not examined.
  • The cleanup goal for PCBs in soil exceeds the level permitted in federal regulations.

The CCCAG is asking area organizations to join in recommending the following actions:

  • The cleanup goals be expanded to cover all areas impacted by the Carter Carburetor site, including properties adjacent to the Carter Carburetor property.
  • The recommended treatment technology be proven to work on PCBs on similar sites and at similar concentrations before use at the Carter Carburetor site.
  • The risk assessment scenario include children of all ages.
  • The cleanup plan protect the health of children and area residents.
  • Ambient air testing be conducted in warm weather when the volatile chemicals are likely to be vaporizing from the site.
  • The site be tested more extensively for dioxins and furans, chemicals that are among the most carcinogenic known to man.
  • Additional groundwater samples be analyzed for a range of contaminants.
  • Groundwater direction and flow be determined.

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