A former chemical plant in Michigan will get an additional $10 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in efforts to clean up the site, which is contaminated with toxic waste.
The Velsicol Chemical Corp. plant in St. Louis, which has been shut down since 1978, is one of the nation’s largest superfund sites. The cleanup, which is expected to take about 18 months, involves thermal treatment of the soil, a process that utilizes special equipment to heat the soil and treat the containers of toxins on the plant property.
Velsicol was a producer of many chemicals from toxic flame retardant PBB, a dangerous chemical that disrupts endocrine function and has been linked to reproductive and thyroid problems, to pesticide DDT. It was active for more than 40 years before it finally closed its doors. Nearby soil and groundwater as well as the Pine River has been contaminated by the chemicals, according to Chem.info.
According to the EPA, the groundwater alone has tested for extremely high levels of benzene and 1,2 dichloroethane.
According to the American Cancer Society, benzene is a chemical that is a known cause of leukemia in humans. Exposure to products containing benzene can cause life-threatening diseases including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), lymphomas and aplastic anemia.
More than $100 million has already been invested in cleaning up the river, and the effort has taken 20 years, but more time and money will be needed to adequately take care of the rest.
About 40 years ago, the Velsicol plant tarnished its own name by inadvertently switching Firemaster flame retardant with Nutrimaster, a cattle feed supplement. As a result, Michigan’s meat and dairy supply was found to be contaminated with PBB.
Last year, a study at Emory University discovered that six out of 10 Michigan residents tested positive for PBB at levels higher than the national average.