Years after cleanup at the St. Maries Creosote Site was declared complete, additional minor work may be required.
Tests on areas of the St. Joe River near the site indicated heightened levels of toxic chemicals may still remain in sediments. While not toxic to humans, the contamination could be an environmental hazard to some wildlife. The EPA has not yet decided whether action is required, and is working with Arcadis Design and Consultancy to determine if further tests are appropriate.
At the earliest, tests on the area will not begin until summer 2020.
Cleanup efforts at the St. Maries Creosote Site were ordered in 1999 and completed in 2018. The EPA found a high number of contaminants in the soil. The process required the soil to be excavated and baked in a special furnace, and sediments on the riverbed and banks downstream from the site were dredged and removed. While the final cost of the project is unavailable, design documents at the beginning of the project estimated the cost of cleanup at $23 million.
According to EPA official Laura Buelow, while the former cleanup was successful, there are indications the latter may not be entirely complete.
“The soil work was completed several years ago, and it all meets cleanup levels,” she said. “The sediment we’ve sampled over the last two years look pretty good, but looking at the average levels of PAH it’s slightly over the prescribed cleanup numbers.”
PAH refers to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the primary contaminant at the site left over from creosote treating. Ms. Buelow said the levels in the area’s sediments are not dangerous to most life; however, the trace contaminants could cause issues with the spawning of water-borne insects.
“We haven’t made a decision as to whether that will require more in-water work,” she said. “We’re in discussions with Arcadis to see if more data is needed before we need a decision.”
EPA requirements, however, prevent tests from being conducted on the river for most of the year to not interfere with spawning seasons. The earliest tests could be conducted would be in August 2020. Ms. Buelow said Arcadis, as the responsible party, would cover the costs of testing and cleanup if needed.