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Neighbors urging cleanup of 7-story pile of industrial waste, debris near old Ford site

Updated: February 23, 2020 10:25 PM

A big pile of construction debris on top of buried drums of industrial waste has neighbors near the old Ford plant site in St. Paul calling for a cleanup of the pollution..

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has documented pollution buried at the site, which sits adjacent to Hidden Falls Regional Park, as far back as 1940, when Ford Motor Company put barrels of paints and solvents into the ground at a spot called "Area C" until about 1960.

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Ford stopped burying those storage drums and capped the existing barrels with a cement slab and then allowed construction debris to be piled on top of the cement. Now that area has pollution and debris stacked seven stories high and three football fields wide.

Colleen O'Connor-Toberman with Friends of the Mississippi River told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS no one knows exactly how much of the pollutants were buried there and said neighbors told the MPCA they want the pile removed and the site cleaned up.

"This sits right next to the Mississippi River and in the floodplain, which is not good," O'Connor-Toberman said. "Ford told the MPCA they are adding two more testing sites for the wells, but none of this should really be here because it is a threat to groundwater and the river."

O'Connor-Toberman said the pollutants, according to the MPCA, have not harmed drinking water or the river in any significant way, but fear of the unknown exists.

"If you do not know how much of the chemicals is there, or exactly what those chemicals are, it is pretty hard to guarantee that it will always be safe and not damage water quality, or the river," O'Connor-Toberman said.

Amy Hadiaris of the MPCA met with neighbors on Thursday and reassured them the state agency, with cooperation from Ford Motor Company, is watching the area closely and takes the floodplain issue seriously.

"Because the site is located in the floodplain of the river it is a very legitimate concern," Hadiaris said. "And it is something we are working hard to watch and we will take into consideration."

This pollution pile does not affect the redevelopment of the old Ford plant site, which is just across Mississippi River Blvd., just east of Hidden Falls.

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