Closed For 90 Years, Factory Continues To Contaminate

Back in the good ol days of the early 1900’s, workers at the Hutchinson KS soda ash plant just dumped waste alkaline on the factory’s perimeter, creating piles that stretched for acres. Now closed for 90 years, runoff from the piles is creating an underground chloride plume that is contaminating the groundwater, and a confusion of owners and regulations has stymied clean up efforts.

A creeping effect [Hutch News]


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  1. Giolon says:

    Sodium carbonate, not sodium chloride – that’s table salt.

    • Bagumpity says:

      Sodium Carbonate is the stuff they made. The mounds of waste are some sort of unspecified alkaline. The contaminate is some unspecified “Chloride.” They mentioned standards for concentrations in drinking water in mg/L, but failed to note mg of what chemical(s).

      Assuming NaCl is probably a safe bet, though, given that brine was part of the process. I would speculate that the waste alkaline was mixed with the brine and either evaporated or precipitated out later, but it was too expensive to produce pure NaCL and alkaline. Later, rain and other processes dissolved the salt from the salt/alkaline mix and the resulting brine contaminated the soil. All that’s just guessing, though.

      • MauriceCallidice says:

        Sounds like they were extracting NaCl from naturally salt groundwater:

        “the salt [came] from brine wells in what later became the Big Chief Mobile Home Park in Hutchinson”

  2. shepd says:

    Still not as exciting as Centralia, PA.,_Pennsylvania#Mine_fire

    • EmanNeercs says:

      Welcome to Silent Hill :D

    • DancesWithBadgers says:

      I hate you. Now please excuse me while I go find a stream for ‘Nothing but Trouble’

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Thanks! I have been trying to remember the name of that town for months and couldn’t.

    • aloria says:

      I’m planning a road trip out there next month. I have the whole ghost town mapped out!

    • colorisnteverything says:

      Just saw “The Town That Was” this weekend. Really sad and tragic what those people went through.

    • CalicoGal says:

      My hubby grew up in the next town over from Centralia. Pretty much the only claim to fame that area has–
      I’ve been there and its totally worth taking a road trip to. It is eerie and wonderful.
      Just dont do like the ya-hoos and pose your 3-year-old next to the smoldering crack in the road by the sign that tells you how dangerous it is to do so.
      The roads can and do collapse regularly.

      It’s even cool to look at on Google Maps so if you can’t take a trip there, do so virtually via the Internets!!

  3. CBenji says:

    Honeywell is a large company. You mean over a few years they couldn’t reclaim this area and dispose of all that soil & write off the costs every year like they are supposed to do? I just don’t get it. That is what you do with land like that. It sounds like they are making a bad business decision and they would rather wait till people come at them with a lot of lawsuits. Sounds like they are asleep at the wheel.

    • mac-phisto says:

      i’m guessing whatever statute of limitations exists on environmental pollution in KS in 1920 would govern if it’s even their responsibility. my guess is that they don’t have to do shit.

      • Robert Nagel says:

        Try again. RCRA, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act allows the government to go after any “potentially responsible party” it can find. These would include any owner of the property going back to the beginning of time. Any lawyer who owned the property for five minutes to facilitate transfer is in jeopardy. The present owners are really on the line. Anyone who ever dumped anything on the property and the providers of the materials which were subsequently dumped are also in the jackpot. RCRA is a very carelessly drafted piece of legislation. One that ensures that any piece of property, read inner city, which may have ANY environmental problems now or in the future, or as a result of any future legislation outlawing what is presently legal, will be avoided like the plague.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    After I read “Hot Zone” for the first time, I wanted to find the lab where the 1989 ebola outbreak in Reston, VA took place. After they found ebola and sanitized it, it was left abandoned and I really wanted to find it and look in the windows. I didn’t know where it was, and it wasn’t exactly common knowledge. I found out a few years ago that it had been demolished in 1995. According to Wikipedia, there’s a daycare there now.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That book scared the bejeebers out of me. So did his book about smallpox. I’m glad to know they knocked down the building. The thought of it standing there, deserted and empty except for a lurking filovirus, gave me the willies.

  5. Hungry Dog says:

    We can give Coke to the rights to this water and they can label it as Dasani extra.

  6. Clyde Barrow says:

    Ahhh yes, the good ole days. When kids as young as 8 yrs old held a job, smoked, and earned their keep.

  7. Gregg Araki Rocks My World says:

    Free market capitalism at it’s best!

  8. camman68 says:

    It seems that the city of Hutchinson doesn’t really know what is going on in their area – or they don’t care. These are some major issues. (I BRIEFLY lived there.) Between the flooding, the explosions, and now they admit to knowing that they are contaminating their drinking water
    It’s just one disaster after another!

  9. econobiker says:

    That is why alot of the years old factory sites are still owned by certain companies that still exist (Du Pont anyone?)

  10. WagTheDog says:

    “A confusion”…that is the term for a herd of people? I like.