The North Alcoa site consists of approximately 400 acres located in a mixed use area of East St. Louis. The property is bounded on the north by Lake Drive, on the east by the Alton and Southern Railroad and Pocket Road, on the south by Missouri Avenue and on the west by 29th Street.
Manufacturing began at the site more than 100 years ago when the Pittsburgh Reduction Company (later renamed the Aluminum Company of America and then Alcoa Inc.) constructed an alumina refinery. Industrial operations occurred mostly on the south side of Missouri Avenue where alumina was produced from bauxite ore. The bauxite residue remaining after manufacturing was used to fill in the former Pittsburg Lake. Later berms were constructed and the residue was stored in residue disposal areas or RDAs. There are three large RDAs on the site, each approximately 40 acres in size. The berms were constructed with gypsum materials which was a by-product of Alcoa’s manufacturing operations. Bauxite residue and gypsum are the primary waste products remaining at the site. The precise date of the historical photograph at the link below is unknown but is probably from the late 1940's
Operation of the Alumina refinery ended in 1958. That portion of the site containing the residue disposal areas is currently owned by the City of East St Louis and this area is the current focus for rehabilitation.
Since 2002, Alcoa, the City of East St Louis, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) have been investigating to document current conditions of the site and looking for options for rehabilitation and possible reuse of the property. The bauxite residue within the residue disposal areas is soft and tends to not be suitable for building construction which limits alternatives for redevelopment. The investigations performed included a risk assessment which concluded that the property would not be suitable for residential development and that a soil cover would be needed to protect workers against exposure to the materials with any future commercial or industrial use.
The 400 acre site was divided into two areas: OU-1 (approximately 225 acres, including the Alton and Southern Railway Third Rail Project Area) and OU-2 (approximately 180 acres). Three options were developed for OU-1 and evaluated for addressing the closure and rehabilitation of the site. The alternative selected by US EPA includes: Containment with Placement of a Compliant Cover and On-Site Storm Water Management. This option consists of placing two feet of cover material over the residue disposal area to contain the materials within. The cover would be in full compliance with Illinois rules and regulations on solid waste containment. The area would also be re-graded to create a slope that would direct storm water drainage to basins designed to contain a 100-year storm water event. The existing ponds would be incorporated into the design for those storm water basins, shown in the following figure:
In July 2012 US EPA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) that documents the remedy for the residue disposal areas selected for the site. On November 1, 2013, the Department of Justice lodged with the US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, the Consent Decree, Civil Action No. 3:13-cv-01126-MJR-SCW. The Consent Decree which was entered by the court on February 6, 2014, constitutes a final judgment regarding closure of the residue disposal areas.
Waste Management National Services (WMNS) will serve as the prime contractor through completion of the OU-1 remedy construction and will work together with additional contracted services as further investigations are conducted and US EPA selects a final remedy for the site.