Milwaukee Solvay Coke & Gas Asbestos Site

Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the 28th most populous city in the United States and is home to more than 18 universities and colleges. The Solvay Coke and Gas plant operated in Milwaukee from 1906 to 1983, encompasses over 45 acres, and is now an official EPA Superfund site. The list of hazardous pollutants found at this site is extensive, and includes arsenic, lead, and asbestos. Lung cancer lawyers warn the Milwaukee public that asbestos is a known human carcinogen, and leads to development of many severe respiratory diseases.

The unassuming Superfund site is located just one block from a major shopping center, and the nearest residential neighborhood is about 0.3 mile west of the site. The facility was once state of the art, though it is now degenerated and contains leftover and unknown substances, samples, and debris. The Center for Disease Control concluded that the Solvay Coke site is at risk for many potential exposure pathways. Most of the Solvay buildings were demolished between 2003 and 2005.

EPA determined that the following companies (former site owners or operators) are responsible for conditions at the site and for funding investigation: American Natural Resources Company, Cliffs Mining Company, Maxus Energy Corporation, Wisconsin Electric Power Company, and Wisconsin Gas LLC.

This is what was removed and shipped off site for proper disposal by the EPA:

  • Asbestos-containing material in many of the structures, on piping inside and outside the structures and loose asbestos-containing material located on the ground
  • Coal tar from the manufactured gas plant operations in tanks, piping, on the ground, and in an open pit area
  • Numerous above-ground storage tanks and associated piping containing coal tar and other residues
  • Other hazardous substances located throughout the site such as drums of naphthalene crystals and oil in old electrical transformers.

Various types of field work have been completed to get a general idea of the environmental problems at the site. In addition to typical soil, sediment and monitoring well sampling, these studies also occurred:

Test Trench Investigation

The purpose of the test trenching investigation is to:

  • Verify the presence, size, and reliability of underground structures which appear to be concrete building foundations.
  • Evaluate conditions in and around these underground structures.
  • Collect samples of affected soil below the ground’s surface.
  • Collect samples of buried waste.

Stockpile Sampling

The previous property owners demolished many buildings on site in the mid-1980s and stored scrap material there in stockpiles. The stockpiles were sampled to determine if the material must be deposed of or if it can be reused on site as fill material.

Direct Sensing
A tool called a membrane interface probe was used to evaluate the contamination and to study underground rock layers. Vertical contamination is found by heating affected soil and ground water via a very hot element on the probe’s tip. Gases are transported through the air and passed through a series of tubes and detectors to find organic contaminants (chemicals that evaporate into the air).

The results are summarized in a document called a remedial investigation report which is currently under our review. The document indicates that additional sampling is necessary. When the report is deemed “final” it will be available to the public.

Concern was expressed that the site is easily accessible and poorly lit. Some individuals said the site has been a magnet for trouble and has attracted gang activity, homeless people and vandalism of nearby offices and parking lots. People working near the site stated that they suspect the vandalism was done by trespassers going to and from the site looking for metal to sell to a nearby recycling facility.

Almost unanimously, local residents interviewed expressed an overwhelming concern about the site’s redevelopment and future use. Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge the public to keep up-to-date on the Savoy site. If you suspect asbestos exposure or development of any related illnesses, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, contact us immediately for a free consultation.

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