The abandoned Carter Carburetor factory is evidence of how long it takes to get rid of a toxic site, even in the middle of a major American city like St. Louis. The plant made gasoline and diesel powered carburetors from the 1930s until 1984, when ACF Industries, Carter's parent company, closed it.
The EPA found "unacceptable levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the building and some areas outside the buildings." In 1997, ACF "demolished and properly disposed of three smaller buildings where PCBs were used in the manufacturing process," according to EPA.
I examined quite a few records in an attempt to document the long and frustrating process involved in cleaning up the Carter building and the land surrounding it. In 2003,
a contractor prepared this report on the site: Carter Carburetor RSER.pdf
The City of St. Louis even had to go to the back of the line in order to get access to some of the records in this case. Here's a letter written by the EPA informing a city official that EPA "has twenty working days to respond to your request" under The Freedom of Information Act. FOI Request .pdf
Here's a link to a 2005 consent agreement that provides a detailed history of the site and the work involved since it closed. EPA Settlement For Removal Action.pdf
Here's a summary of the "known environmental conditions," according to a June 26, 2009 memo we obtained from the St. Louis Development Corporation. Know Environ Cond June 09.pdf
During our interview outside the Carter building, Flint Fowler (seen at right), the President of the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, told me that the derelect building "sucks any hope people may have for an improved environment" in the neighborhood.
A year ago, a city inspector cited Carter Building Inc., a company owned by Tom Kerr, for 14 violations. City officials have also complained that Kerr failed to pay his taxes over the years. Kerr told me he has used the unpaid taxes as leverage to get the city to take over the building, but when I checked last week he was paid in full. Kerr insists he's done his best to maintain the property, but can't do more because of ongoing testing and cleanup.
A final decision on the best use of the property could be announced within the next few months. Mayor Slay told me he believes the building should be torn down as soon as possible. Based on my interviews with nearly everyone involved, it seems likely that the building will be demolished, the property will be covered with a protective material, then redeveloped by the Boys and Girls club.
But who knows how long that will take?
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