COLUMBUS — One building is already gone and two more are coming down soon as part of the cleanup effort at three sites linked to groundwater contamination in Columbus.
Work began this week on a $3.4 million remediation project ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to control a plume of tainted groundwater the agency says originated more than 30 years ago on the former dry cleaner properties.
Prudent Technologies, based in Kansas City, Missouri, which was hired as the main contractor for the project, will work with local subcontractors over the coming weeks on the cleanup at 2262 25th Ave., 1061 25th Ave. and 960 24th Ave.
The process, which is funded by the EPA with a 10 percent contribution from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, is already underway at the former One-Hour Martinizing property next to Arby’s along 23rd Street.
That building, which housed Prestige Dry Cleaners until the business relocated to the former American Red Cross property at 2905 23rd St., was torn down this week. Prestige was not one of the businesses involved in the contamination.
Demolition work soon will follow at the former Liberty Cleaners and Jackson Cleaners properties.
The EPA identified these properties as the sources of two carcinogenic chemicals used in dry cleaning that leached into the soil and groundwater more than three decades ago, creating a contamination plume that now stretches from roughly 23rd Street to Sixth Street and 33rd Avenue to 16th Avenue.
The groundwater contamination was first identified by state health officials in 1983 before cleanup was handed over to the EPA. The so-called 10th Street Superfund site was added to the National Priorities List in August 1990.
EPA spokesman Chris Whitley said the current cleanup project should take a few weeks to complete, with the work wrapped up yet this year.
“As far as environmental cleanup goes, this is not one of the most complex that we’ve had,” Whitley said.
Once the buildings are removed, soil at the three sites will be excavated and tested. Clean soil can be used as backfill and contaminated dirt must be sent to certified landfills in either Butler or Kimball counties.
A chemical oxidation process will be used to break down the contaminants before the restored properties are ultimately handed over to the city.
“For the most part, we anticipate that this cleanup should address the majority of the issues,” said Whitley, who noted that chemical injections and sampling also will occur next spring to determine whether additional action is needed.
The work will cause some temporary street closures near the cleanup sites, including an elimination of the center turning lane along 23rd Street from approximately 23rd to 27th avenues starting as early as Monday and lasting two to four weeks. The turning lane will be used to maintain four lanes of traffic along 23rd Street while the cleanup progresses.
Whitley said the EPA worked closely with the Department of Environmental Quality to minimize the impact on neighboring properties, including Arby’s.
The restaurant is completing its own project, which includes a complete interior and exterior renovation, concurrently with the cleanup work.
The business will be closed while the interior upgrades are made beginning Oct. 12 and lasting approximately two and a-half weeks.
Each of the dry cleaners blamed for the groundwater contamination — One-Hour Martinizing, Liberty Cleaners and Jackson Cleaners — previously paid a settlement to the EPA.
The city also receives federal funding to operate an extraction system that protects the municipal drinking water supply from contaminants.