ST. LOUIS – Three different companies–Laclede Gas Co., SGL Group, and Carondelet Coke–left behind a costly environmental legacy at the Carondelet Coke Plant in St. Louis.
Instead of being on the hook for the $12.3 million cost to clean up the arsenic, asbestos, coal tar, cyanide and carcinogens at one of the most polluted places in Missouri, the bill will be footed by Missouri taxpayers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Jeremy Kohler of the Post-Dispatch writes that the Coke site could have qualified as a Superfund site, and the mere legal threat of bringing Superfund litigation against the previous owners may have given the city of St. Louis enough leverage to muscle the companies into cleaning it up voluntarily.
Instead, the city avoided the Superfund route to clean up either because it was too time-consuming or it wanted to avoid Superfund stigma. After almost 15 years since discussions were first held, the cost of clean up is going to fall on taxpayers. As Kohler reports:
Peter Meyer, retired director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Management at the University of Louisville and a longtime EPA consultant on brownfields, said officials missed a chance “to clean up the site without the tax credits.”
“If the city had taken the first steps toward the declaration that the site should be qualified for Superfund — the national priorities list — both of the existing responsible parties would have gone into panic mode since such a listing could cost them untold millions above cleanup costs,” he said.
“That threat of listing has worked all over the U.S., but for some reason St. Louis was scared to try it, or had a too-easy option with state subsidies.”