ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

More soil issues found at proposed Morgan Park construction site

Analysis has uncovered additional contamination and soil issues on a 15-acre Morgan Park site where Ikonics Corp., a maker of image technologies, hopes to build a new production facility.

Analysis has uncovered additional contamination and soil issues on a 15-acre Morgan Park site where Ikonics Corp., a maker of image technologies, hopes to build a new production facility.

Craig Wilson, owner of Environmental Troubleshooters, said his Duluth-based firm has identified a few "hot spots" containing heavy metals and petroleum products on the property that was formerly home to Atlas Cement. All told, about 400 cubic yards of contaminated soil probably will need to be removed to make the site suitable for development.

But Heidi Timm-Bijold, a business development official for the city of Duluth, said Wilson's firm also discovered a larger problem as a result of past bulldozing and grading of the property.

"They found railroad ties and many other types of widespread debris that had been covered up," she said, noting: "You can't build on that, and we [the Duluth Economic Development Authority] are responsible for cleaning up the full 15 acres."

Wilson proposes to dig up the property and screen unsuitable materials out of the soil on-site. The alternative would be to haul all the affected soils to a construction landfill -- a move that he said could add $100,000 to $400,000 to the cost of preparing the property for development.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We're talking in excess of 20,000 [cubic] yards," he said.

Although his firm has not yet put together a detailed remediation budget, Wilson estimated DEDA's prospective cleanup costs using his plan would still definitely exceed $100,000.

Timm-Bijold said DEDA could seek state funding to cover 75 percent of the cleanup costs, but the next round of grant applications won't be accepted until May 1, with final awards unlikely before June 15.

Meanwhile, Ikonics hopes to begin construction on the site April 1 and complete the work in October.

To keep the project on track, Timm-Bijold said DEDA probably will be asked to proceed with the site cleanup using its own resources. It would then seek reimbursement through the state grant program retroactively. She has received assurances this approach should not diminish DEDA's odds of receiving state money.

The proposed Ikonics expansion would consume only a portion of the 64 acres of the former Atlas Cement site, which DEDA acquired in 2004. As part of that deal, the authority agreed to assume any environmental liabilities associated with the property.

"We're hoping Ikonics' new facility will be a catalyst for more development in the area," said Tom Cotruvo, DEDA's executive director.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.