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Contamination in and around the former Kerr-McGee site in Springfield is the focus of a meeting this week

The former Kerr-McGee site in west Springfield (photo taken August 21, 2023)
Michele Skalicky
The former Kerr-McGee site in west Springfield (photo taken August 21, 2023)

The community meeting will be held Wednesday night, August 23, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Library Station.

Studies and cleanup work are underway at the old Tronox/Kerr-McGee Wood Treatment Facility, and a public meeting on Wednesday, August 23, will allow the public to learn more about what’s going on there. The 68-acre site is located at 2800 W. High St. in Springfield.

The land was used — first by American Creosote and then Kerr-McGee — for more than 100 years to pressure treat railroad crossties, switch ties, bridge timbers and lumber, which they sold for commercial use. Its last owner was Tronox. That was the renamed chemical division of Kerr-McGee that the company had spun off as an independent business. Tronox filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief in 2009.

The site is now under the ownership of the Multistate Environmental Response Trust as part of a bankruptcy settlement in 2011. They’re tasked with investigating the extent of contamination and facilitating the site’s safe reuse.

Multistate Trust program director Tasha Lewis said one chemical in particular is a concern there.

"They used creosote and generated processed wastewater," she said, "and that processed wastewater was discharged for many years into unlined lagoons, and that creosote in that processed wastewater was allowed to seep into the subsurface."

She said, over many years, that contamination has migrated offsite to an area near the Golden Hills Subdivision. Studies indicate the groundwater contaminate plume has spread about half a mile north of the property, according to Lewis.

She said those who live closest to the former facility have been disproportionately harmed by the contamination from years of operation.

"And that is, you know, recognized by the Multistate Trust as well as our beneficiaries, including the State of Missouri," she said, "and we work directly with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources."

Testing has been done beneath homes and in yards near the facility. Levels of contaminants in vapors and in soil so far have been below the established EPA levels for human health. But residents are still concerned about adverse health effects.

Lewis said the purpose of her organization is to protect human health and the environment, so they’re prioritizing the off-site investigations.

You can find out more at the public meeting Wednesday night from 6 to 7:30 at the Library Station, 2535 N. Kansas Expressway. An availability session will be held from 4:30 to 5:30, and there will be food from 5 to 6.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.