Site suggested for National Priorities List
LE MARS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed adding five Superfund sites to the National Priorities List (NPL), including the Highway 3 PCE Site in Le Mars.
The NPL includes sites where releases of contamination pose significant human health and environmental risks.
The Highway 3 PCE Site is located southeast of the intersection of Plymouth Street West (Iowa Highway 3) and Central Avenue Northeast in Le Mars. The EPA discovered the site in April 2008 during an investigation conducted for the nearby Le Mars Coal Gas Plant Site. Groundwater sampling identified the presence of tetrachloroethene (PCE) and its breakdown products. Those contaminants were determined not to be associated with the Le Mars Coal Gas Plant Site.
As a result, the EPA created the Highway 3 PCE site, encompassing the downtown area of Le Mars, and began follow-up sampling to investigate the presence and source of PCE.
“Last summer, we did a removal action on the (former) Ideal Cleaners property to address the PCE contaminated soil,” said Jeffrey Pritchard, who was the EPA’s on-scene coordinator for that cleanup.
In May 2021, the site of the former Ideal Cleaners business was excavated to remove contaminated soil, as property owners made plans to take off a back portion of the dry cleaning business and put in a parking lot for the Central Event Center and Inn on Central, a bed and breakfast.
The EPA took down the building addition and removed the addition’s cement slab, then removed the contaminated soil and replaced it with new soil.
At that time, it was proposed by the EPA that the Highway 3 PCE Site be added to the NPL.
The proposal to add the Highway 3 PCE Site covers the entire site that was identified by the EPA in 2008, according to Prichard. The Highway 3 PCE site encompasses approximately 6.5 acres of land, according to EPA documents.
“Adding the site to the NPL will allow the EPA to address ground water contamination that is associated with the whole site, which there is a ground water plume which extends from downtown to the northwest for approximately about a mile, so they will be able to address that groundwater contamination,” Pritchard explained.
“That groundwater contamination has resulted in an impact to the downtown buildings where we’ve had what we call vapor intrusion, or contaminated vapors from that ground water impacting some of those buildings where we’ve installed vapor mitigation systems,” he said.
David Bryan, public affairs specialist with the EPA Office of Public Affairs, Region 7, explained what moving to the NPL list means for the site.
“It means moving it to the EPA’s remedial program which will then allow the EPA to further investigate and clean up or address that groundwater contamination as well as to continue to operate and maintain those vapor mitigation systems which have been installed,” he said. “This is a pathway for the EPA to continue to do that.”
The EPA Superfund removal program installed 20 vapor mitigation systems at commercial/residential properties in the downtown Le Mars area in 2014.
According to a release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 7, before the EPA adds a site to the NPL, a site must meet EPA’s requirements and be proposed for addition to the list in the Federal Register, subject to a 60-day public comment period. The EPA will add the site to the NPL if it continues to meet the listing requirements after the public comment period closes and the agency has responded to any comments.
Bryan said the process allows any agency that wants to make a comment about the site, their interest in the site, or the pros and cons of cleaning up the site.
“We gather all that information as part of the ongoing investigation. This allows us to see what needs to be addressed before it is designated an NPL site,” Bryan said.
There are currently 1,334 NPL sites in the United States, with another 43 currently proposed.
Written comments regarding the Highway 3 PCE Site can be sent to: Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CERCLA Docket Office; 1301 Constitution Avenue NW; William Jefferson Clinton Building West, Room 3334, Washington, DC 20004, 202/566–0276. Or contact the Region 7 Coordinator Kumud Pyakuryal, Region 7 (IA, KS, MO, NE), U.S. EPA, 11201 Renner Blvd., Mailcode SUPRSTAR, Lenexa, KS 66219; 913/551–7956.