Soil toxins could cost U

A wood-treating facility left toxins in the soil of the stadium site.

by Sam Darcy

A wood treating facility that operated more than a hundred years ago on the site of the proposed TCF Bank Stadium has raised new concerns for the University.

From 1903 to 1919, Republic Creosoting operated on the site as a wood treating facility. The facility used the chemical creosote, no longer used because of its toxicity to humans, and the chemical still taints about an acre of the site’s soil today.

Soil, water and climate professor Paul Bloom said creosote was used for treating wood, specifically to keep railroad ties from rotting. Creosote is a mixture of substances that are toxic at some level, he said.

University stadium project coordinator Brian Swanson said as the stadium and other University projects are built in the area, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency told the University to rid the site of creosote.

“There is a requirement that we tell the MPCA how we intend to clean it up and they hold a public hearing to get feedback on our proposed method of doing that,” he said.

The MPCA meeting, attended by a few dozen people, was held Wednesday night and presented the University’s cleanup options to the public before the MPCA decides on the best alternative.

With the University building a drainage well on the site, MPCA Project Manager Wayne Sarappo said there is concern the creosote could drain into the groundwater.

“We’re concerned about the long-term effects of exposure and we just don’t think this is good to get into the groundwater,” he said. “With all the students and parking lots in the area, we just feel that this is the best thing to do.”

Sarappo said the University has four options: do nothing, transport the hazardous material to a Michigan waste facility, transport the materials to a site for burning or have a crew burn the toxins on site.

Swanson said the University won’t know the cost of the project until the MPCA reaches a decision, but the University prefers to thermally treat the creosote off site, about 45 miles away.

“It eliminates the pollution as opposed to just moving it around and is probably the most cost-effective,” he said.

Dan Sola of Wenck Associates, the firm hired by the University to develop a cleanup plan, said the off-site thermal treatment option would be the most efficient solution. The option would cost the University $3.2 million to $4 million, the cheapest of the removal options, he said.

Agricultural business senior Eric Anderson said he was skeptical of the University’s timing in telling the public.

“It seems strange that they didn’t know this all along,” he said. “It’s like they don’t tell us about the extra costs until the stadium gets approved.”

Swanson said despite the University having little choice but to move the contaminated soil, it might be for the best.

“If this is what the MPCA says is the right thing to do, then it is probably what we should do.”