More testing planned at Springfield cleanup site

Railroad and track

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A polluted industrial site in Springfield will need more testing before the work can begin, according to a group that’s coordinating the cleanup.

The Greenfield Environmental Trust Group, which is responsible for cleaning up the site of the old Kerr-McGee railroad tie plant in northwest Springfield, held its first public meeting in the city on Wednesday.

The site is polluted with creosote, a byproduct of coal tar that was used to coat railroad ties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies creosote as a possible human carcinogen, The Springfield News-Leader reported (

The Springfield plant began operating in 1907 as American Creosote Co. and was later sold to Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp. In 1965, an estimated 900,000 railroad ties a year were treated with creosote at the plant, which closed and was decommissioned in 2004.

They said more testing beyond the property line is needed to determine how much of the area has been affected. The group is using $22 million from a federal settlement to clean up the property.

Amber Igoe, assistant project manager, said part of the plan is to install eight new wells in the public rights of way to test ground water outside of the plant’s property line for contamination.

There are existing wells that the multistate trust group has already been sampling for years, but the group’s Vice President, Marc Weinreich, said this will give the group a better understanding of how far out some of the contamination might go.

“What our job is as the multistate trust is to evaluate the effectiveness of what has already been done. And to the extent that we find it needs to be enhanced – or a big word, ‘optimized’ – to take those actions.”

Several citizens who live in the area said at Wednesday’s meeting that they or their neighbors have been diagnosed with cancer and expressed concern that the creosote might be behind their illnesses.

Weinreich said he couldn’t say whether the contaminated plant was responsible for any illnesses. He also said the Greenfield Environmental Trust Group cannot spend any of its money on personal injury or health claims.

Those cases, Weinreich said, must be taken up with a different trust.

A representative from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said citizens who are concerned they might have gotten cancer because of the contaminated plant can contact the Bureau of Cancer Control.

The Greenfield Environmental Trust Group plans to have another public meeting in 2017 to update Springfield residents on the cleanup effort.