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Science and the Environment

Settlement Results in $19 Million for Cleanup at Contaminated Springfield Site

Springfield and Kansas City will receive more than $38 million to clean up contaminated soil and water as part of record national environmental bankruptcy settlement.

Attorney General Chris Koster made the announcement Tuesday morning from the former Kerr-McGee plant in northwest Springfield. From 1907-2003, the site was used for creosote wood treatment, which Koster says led to contaminated soil and groundwater within its 64 acre area.

“Included in this settlement is more than $19 million to clean up this facility here in Springfield. A site that has sat idle for more than 11 years,” Koster said.

The settlement involves Tronox, a spin-off of energy company Kerr-McGee, which eventually filed for bankruptcy citing the crippling costs of its environmental liabilities. In 2006, the remainder of Kerr-McGee’s assets were purchased by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

Missouri and other states intervened in the bankruptcy process, and as part of the $5.15 billion national settlement reached Tuesday, Koster says Anadarko has accepted responsibility and will pay for the cleanup of contaminated sites across the country.

Kerr-McGee_board.jpg
Credit Scott Harvey / KSMU

He says restoration of sites in Springfield and Kansas City will not only protect the public health and the environment, but also return land back into the local economy.

“In addition to the cleanup, Anadarko will pay $5,732,000 to Missouri’s Natural Resources Damages Program. That money will be used by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for groundwater restoration here and at other sites across the state.”

Some of the settlement money will be used initially to test the “full scope of environmental damage” at the site, Koster said, adding that officials believe the contamination is limited to within the fence line of the former plant site. 

Creosote, the chemical used to treat the wood at Kerr-McGee, contains many different chemicals, some of which are carcinogens.

Jack McManus, who heads the AG’s environmental division, says the contamination of the Springfield site likely evolved through its nearly 100 years in operation.

“I think early on they might have just used pits in order to dip the creosote. Later they did change over to tanks by the end of the process. But they also had some industrial spills even when they had that process setup that ended up contaminating the ground water,” McManus said.

McManus adds that the funds will also allow for continual monitoring of the site after initial testing and cleanup.

Koster says prior to Tuesday’s settlement, environmental cleanup and at the former Kerr-McGee site has been conducted through the installation of wells that draw the existing water towards the center of the property for cleaning and which keeps the water from moving beyond the site boundaries.

Follow Scott Harvey on Twitter: @scottksmu