Sorry for the length of this post but I thought it interesting when talking about the Timken site polluted past. This is from columbus alive in '97 and is about the former Ohio Pen site (currently office and retail space next to Nationwide Arena). The Arena was not built on this area but right next to it:
Superfun or superfund?
by John Thomas and Harvey Wasserman
contined from cover...
Among the realities thus far uncovered:
As of 1995, much of the contamination at the Pen had yet to be located, identified or measured;
Serious levels of contamination were found by Dodson-Stilson "to a depth of 20 feet below grade";
Some contaminate concentrations exceed federal clean-up standards by factors of 10,000;
Dust in parts of the site was deemed so poisonous workers there have been required to wear elaborate protective suits, special breathing apparatus and thick gloves;
Toxic groundwater and the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) may make it impossible to suppress the site’s problems by merely paving it over;
Underground tanks containing toxic residues must, by federal law, be removed before any construction can proceed;
Removing contaminated debris from the site must, by law, involve federal oversight;
Thus, according to Robert Lautzenheiser, the Columbus Health Department’s supervisor for hazardous materials, "it’s not clear if the present budget for the sports complex will cover cleanup costs because these costs have yet to be determined."
To fully grasp the level of pollution at the Pen site, one has to understand that it began accumulating 160 years ago. As Franklinton ceased being a native settlement, and ancient trees were still being felled nearby, industrial activity began at the fertile juncture of the Scioto and Olentangy.
One hundred-forty years before the first EPA regulation.
According to the Dodson-Stilson report, a laundry was operating at the site as early as 1834. Around that time, metals were being forged and molded, bent and shaped where the state penitentiary rose and then fell.
A more precise history of industrial activity begins in 1887 when, Dodson-Stilson says, there was a foundry that cast and cleaned iron stoves, as well as a forge for making agricultural implements. There was also a machine shop, an iron works, one or more implement painting operations, blacksmiths, a prison laundry, a leather works, pig pens, a slaughterhouse and rendering operation, a tin shop, a copper shop and a coal plant specializing in gasification and purification.
According to the Dodson-Stilson chronology, in 1891 a stove foundry was operating along with a sheet metal works that did stamping, forming and heat treating. In 1909, boilers began burning coal and oil, generating slag and ash. In 1921 the state opened an auto tag shop that operated through 1965, doing metal work, cleaning and painting.
It also opened a tin shop, a paint shop, a soap factory, a woolen mill, and a cotton mill.
From 1939 through 1978 the prison ran dry-cleaning and water treatment operations, plus an ice plant, a foundry, and tin, plumbing, carpentry, electrical and welding shops. Ohio Prison Industries also ran a woolen mill, cotton mill, print shop and machine shop.
The Pen’s industrial history thus embraces a unique range of very well-established environmental hazards. Dry-cleaning, for example, has long been done with a number of risky chemicals, including a chlorine-based polluter known as perchloroethylene (PERC), since abandoned by commercial laundries because of its long-lived killing power. Dodson-Stilson cites other cleaning-related chemicals as well; the site’s soil bears a 40-year residue.
Until recently, paint has been a serious medium for lead. The toxic fallout from forging, smithing, welding, rendering, metallurgical and other such operations is no mystery, even if unmonitored for more than a century.
Supplying electricity for thousands of inmates and so many industrial operations required some 35 transformers. At least a few--it’s not clear how many--used liquid PCBs, the infamous chlorine-based carcinogen that has cost millions in remedial actions throughout the world. Significant parts of the Pen’s soil may be soaked with it. But Dodson-Stilson’s report leaves unclear exactly how much remains at the site, where it is, or what can be done with it.
There are at least a few underground tanks, laden with (among other things) petrochemicals from coal-tar and coke-related operations, both of which commonly involve extremely hazardous residuals. Guidelines from the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations (BUSTR) require those tanks to be removed before any construction can happen above them. In other words, they can’t be paved over.
Furthermore, Dodson-Stilson says any release of what’s in these tanks "would cause significant environmental and regulatory concerns to the property development."
At least two of these tanks were made--early--of bricks and mortar. They are 12 feet wide, 30 feet long and five to six feet deep. That the bricks may be crumbling and the mortar leaking is indicated by the soil around them, which Dodson-Stilson says now exhibits "dark staining and strong petroleum odors."
How to get these tanks out? How to scoop up the contaminants below? There is no clear answer, and no cost estimate.
Printing operations involved solvents such as acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, isopropyl alcohol, xylene, ethylene glycol, ether and chlorinated solvents such as methylene chloride and TCE and PCE. The inks and colored dyes left residues of arsenic, chromate, copper, lead, molybdenum, vanadium and zinc, many also common to the paint process.
From 1939 there was a solid waste incinerator whose practices "are not explicitly known for much of the site history." Dodson-Stilson points to "piles of black material in the northern portion of the site" while "cinders and slag are ubiquitous across the northern, western and eastern portions of the site." As for what was done with wastewater through the years, "the effect of various chemicals on the integrity of the sanitary sewer system is not known."
Brownfield dead end?
Many of the 81 Pen buildings were destroyed in fires in 1930 and 1952, spewing toxins into the air, and leaving uncertain residues. The walls that remain are heavily contaminated, and are now being dumped on the south side, atop our water table.
Dodson-Stilson says that "only limited information based on trenching excavation could be collected from the eastern side of the power plant building due to the presence of a large debris pile to the east of the building." Elsewhere, "further delineation" is needed to gauge soil and groundwater contamination. The PCB question also remains open.
For some pollutants, levels exceed federal standards by a factor of 10,000 or more, which would demand remedial action, i.e. removal. Thus the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and other long-standing federal regulations would have to be voided or circumvented before the Pen could become even a parking lot. Regulations about worker safety and toxic exposures may have to be ignored merely to bring workers on site to do the job without protective clothing.
Federal officials say the state and city may have the leeway to do much of that. Governor George Voinovich’s new Brownfields law can allow developers to pave over polluted areas without doing remedial action, as long as they don’t make problems at the site worse. Ohio EPA officials say that under the state’s Voluntary Action Program, the city could proceed with its own plans under certain loose guidelines having to do with not endangering human health.
But the Voluntary Action Program may not apply where there are underground storage tanks, PCBs or contaminated groundwater. And federal intervention always lurks in the wings. Toxicity levels as high as those at the Pen could raise USEPA eyebrows and could prompt regulators to seek ways to get involved. Digging foundations for a new stadium could involve techniques that would require federal oversight. The tanks must be removed, and what surfaces with them could be problematic.
Mark Sheahan of the Ohio EPA says the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) scattered by the printing and dry-cleaning operations have the power to seep up through asphalt, meaning paving the place over might not significantly reduce human risk. Sheahan says toxic groundwater could also pose physical problems in laying down concrete. Dodson-Stilson says the area surrounding the old gasification plant must be remediated. Robert Lautzenheiser of the Columbus Health Department agrees that "since we’ve identified contamination, we would have to remove the immediate hazards even if the stadium is not approved."
Inhale the burn?
Dodson-Stilson does have a recommendation about how to clean-up the place: burn it. At least seven different times, its 1995 report tags incineration as the preferred method of cleansing the area.
Such a mass burn would require a USEPA clean air permit. It also remains unclear how much soil and other debris would have to be torched, how much it would cost, and where the job could be done.
South side activist Teresa Mills says that when she joked with an unnamed Ohio EPA official that the Pen’s pollutants might be fried at the city’s defunct trash burner, the EPA official responded: "Don’t laugh."
Trucking the Pen’s toxic soils to Jackson Road or to some other incinerator would probably meet stiff political resistance along the way. The RCRA law may require USEPA involvement once toxics are put on the roads.
At least one mobile incinerator may be parked in Toledo, ready to come down and do the job on site. But as central Ohioans learned at the trash burner, merely torching toxic materials does not turn them into clean air. An incinerator operating in the heart of downtown could spew into the winds enough dioxins, furans and heavy metals to turn the Short North, west side and the city’s center into one big cancer ward.
Flirting with disaster?
When it comes to agonizing over stadium plans for contaminated prime real estate, Columbus is in Big League company. Atlanta thought it had cleaned the ground under Olympic Stadium, but construction workers there came upon contaminated barrels and soil that forced a redesign, adding a special liner and venting system.
Newark, New Jersey’s Ironbound Stadium was built, but can’t be used due to soil contamination.
In Tampa, befouled soil under the Lightnings’ hockey stadium sickened workers, leading to a four-month trial and millions in legal fees. The culprit was chlorinated dry-cleaning solvents, of the kind deposited at the Pen site for 40 years.
San Antonio, Detroit, Nashville, Grand Rapids and Milwaukee have all run into similar problems, as have Riverbank Park in New Jersey and Sunrise Park in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In San Antonio, remediation efforts have run to some $16 million. In Milwaukee, promoters of a new park for the baseball Brewers deny having hidden environmental problems from voters, but have recommended a "hold harmless" clause to avoid future liability.
Ohio’s Brownfields law and the city’s loose regulatory requirements could conceivably allow construction to proceed. Gary Parks at Mayor Greg Lashutka’s office says trying to build an stadium at the Pen site could involve fewer clean-up requirements than, say, a housing project.
But if those tanks crumble, or reveal more surprises, or if the huge excesses over the RCRA standards draw federal attention, or there are further VOC and groundwater problems, or other problems are found in the as-yet unexplored corners of the site, all bets could be off.
What Dodson-Stilson says most clearly, and what arena promoters may not want to face, is that dealing with 16 decades of chemical assault, if it can be done with current technology, could turn into an endless expense. Dodson-Stilson’s on-site incineration option would likely ignite a political firestorm in excess of what consumed the trash burner. The tanks, VOCs and contaminated groundwater rule out the idea of merely paving the place over.
The bottom line
Nobody at Dodson-Stilson would consent to being interviewed for this story and the report offers no price tag on clean-up. Ron Ranney, site project manager for the city, said that a follow-up Dodson-Stilson survey on underground pollution is due out some time in May. A pre-bid meeting for contractors interested in the job of cleaning up the site is scheduled for the first week of May. But "there is no estimate, no ballpark, not yet," on the cost of the clean-up, says Ranney.
Bill Jennison of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, which is spearheading the arena/stadium project, said that the task force assigned to look at the overall facilities proposal did not have the Dodson-Stilson report in hand during its study. They used their own information regarding contamination at the site to draw their conclusions about costs. "We were aware that there were a lot of environmental issues that needed to be dealt with at the site. And I think we’ve budgeted a reasonable amount to address those issues."
Jennison said that the $12.1 million allocated for the Pen site--$5.1 million for environmental remediation, $3.1 million for filling, grading and site preparation; $2.25 million for historical preservation; and $1.75 million for demolition--"goes a long way toward doing that [clean-up].... I haven’t seen anything yet that’s wildly out of line with the amount we’ve budgeted."
Whether that amount will hold remains to be seen, as does the question of who will ultimately foot the bill. The city now owns the site, but the state did the historic polluting there, which prompted Denny Roberge of the stadium operation to opine that Ohio might ultimately be responsible for clean-up.
Jennison said that the site will have to be cleaned up regardless of whether Issue #1 passes or not. "They can’t leave it in its current state. As a neighbor of that site, that wouldn’t sound too pleasant. This project has the potential to help [the city] cover those costs."
At least one city official has questioned the initial $5 million estimate. The Alamodome’s $16 million bill for detoxifying Texas soil is not encouraging. Nor is New Jersey’s Ironbound Stadium, abandoned due to contamination.
Given the Pen’s unique and still enigmatic legacy, central Ohioans might wonder whether hastily jumping into mega-buck construction there risks a huge financial debacle somewhere down the road. They might also ask if the Pen’s potential health problems could cast a pall over a commercial venture that can’t succeed without large-scale family attendance.
There are reasons the Pen has sat vacant all these years.
Are there tens of millions of them?