Prodded by Kentucky environmental officials, CSX Corp. has agreed to strip the remaining rusty, lead-based paint that is flaking off a company bridge onto the ground and into the Barren River.
Kevin Comer / RRPictureArchives.net
About 70% of the rusted, lead-based paint
has already flaked off the bridge onto
the ground and into the Barren River.
About 70% of the paint has already flaked off the bridge in Bowling Green, KY, in recent years. That paint was left on the ground and in the river until a citizen’s complaint last spring prompted the state’s Superfund Branch to address the matter.
“We identified that there was work to be done,” said Shawn Cecil, director of Kentucky’s Superfund Branch. “We determined a level of contamination.”
Under pressure from the state, CSX removed several hundred cubic yards of soil and paint chips—several hundred tons in all—from the site in the fall of 2010.
In December, the rail company told state environmental officials that the fall cleanup had been sufficient to protect the area and that the company considered its job complete. It offered no plan to address the remaining paint.
‘More Comprehensive Approach’ Urged
The state disagreed and asked CSX to “look harder at potential solutions,” Cecil said at the time.
On Jan. 30, CSX told the state that it would restrict access to the area, which is zoned for industrial use, to minimize any public health risk.
Still not good enough, the state responded.
In a letter Feb. 18 to CSX, Cecil asked CSX to “take a more comprehensive approach” to the cleanup.
“It was our belief that their approach was non-inclusive of all of the impacts on the environment,” Cecil said in an interview Tuesday (March 1).
While the state has found little or no adverse impact on the area’s aquatic biota, Cecil said, the remaining flaking paint “represented a continued release to the environment, including the Barren River.”
Amec Earth & Environmental Inc.
Soil sampling in March 2010 indicated
lead contamination. Hundreds of tons
of soil and paint chips were later removed.
No Repainting Planned
On Feb. 24, CSX “voluntarily” told the state that it would remove the rest of the paint down to bare metal, authorities said. The company has “not indicated any intent to repaint” the bridge, according to Cecil.
CSX is still working on the details of the removal project, and the state will have to sign off on the plan. But Cecil said the state would not require CSX to repaint the bridge.
“If they’ve removed the lead contaminant, that’s all we really care about,” he said. The removal plan “addresses our concerns.”
CSX has assured the state that all of the paint will be removed in 2011, Cecil added.
CSX’s environmental remediation manager did not return a phone call Tuesday seeking comment.
‘Ugliest Thing You’ve Ever Seen’
Removal of the coatings is a victory for State Rep. Jody Richards, a Democrat whose district includes the area.
“I’ve been working on this project for at least 15 years,” Richards said in an interview. “We have worked like little beavers trying to get this thing done. And they [CSX] have just refused to paint it.”
The bridge is close to the intake for the town’s water system and sits in the center of about $150 million in historic renovation and new construction projects, including a hospital, a performing arts center, a riverfront park, and a minor league stadium, Richards said. His constituents and fellow Rotarians have complained about the paint for years.
“We’ve spent a lot of money, and then we’ve got this old bridge, and it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen,” he said.
Not until the state determined that the paint was an environmental hazard and told CSX to take action did the company do so, Richards said.
CSX has told the community that the bridge is structurally sound, and Richards says he hopes that is true. He believes the bridge was built in the 1920s and says it “has some considerable age on it.”
“Would I have preferred them to repaint it?” he says. “Absolutely. But they say, ‘We don’t repaint bridges. We rebuild them.’”
“But if it’s going to look all one color, that’s a great victory.”
On the other hand, he added: “It will be interesting to see how it actually looks when it’s all done.”