The land was once home to the Carter Carburetor Corporations plant, but was abandoned for over 30 years.
The Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis has strived to transform an environmental hazard into a vision of hope and community awareness.
A lot that once housed the Carter Carburetor Corporations factory will now be turned into a golf course for neighborhood kids.
The land, which is located on the Grand Boulevard, has been abandoned for over 30 years.
A resident of the community said he remembers that the factory was well and active when he was a child and lived in the area. This resident requested that his name not be mentioned.
“It was an auto parts factory,” said the resident. “They used to make parts for a bunch of auto companies, and then they demolished everything. So now there is only this empty land. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it now.
The old gasoline and diesel carburetor manufacturing plant left behind large quantities of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichlorethylene (TCE). Former US Representative William Lacy Clay Jr. said this site is the result of a much bigger problem in America.
“All too often, old urban neighborhoods with predominantly minority populations are turned into toxic landfills,” Clay said in an article for the St. Louis American. “This environmental racism is shameful, and it has been going on for decades.”
This forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to step in and label the 10-acre land as a shallow site.
EPA Region 7 overlooks most of the Midwest, including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. They considered the Carter Carburetor building to be a federal superfund site in 1992.
EPA shallow sites are polluted or contaminated locations in the United States that require a long-term response to clean up. Superfund sites are placed on a list by the EPA which gives them national priority to clean up.
Flint Fowler, president of the Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis, described the abandoned factory as a hardship on the neighborhood. He said it was driving money and residents out of the community due to the conditions of the building.
“It was tainted and it was ugly,” Fowler said. “I wanted to tear down the building to make this part of the neighborhood safer and create a better environment for the children. If you look at broken windows, overgrown grass, and “danger” signs, it has a psychological impact not only on children, but on residents as well. “
The abandoned factory was located in the center of what is called the “free market,” according to the fourth district police captain. This is not a cheap fresh fruit, baked goods and clothes supermarket. On the contrary, this area of the Grand Boulevard is widely reported for its open drug distribution, drug use and prostitution.
Residents of the area were reluctant to speak officially, wanting to keep their names and faces out of the media. The neighborhood contains people walking around with guns. Stray dogs roam the streets and the echoes of gunfire nearby aren’t even worthy of flinching for those waiting at the bus stop.
Fowler and the Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis want to use this project to inspire some development in the area.
Fowler said there are two main parts to this mission. The first part was to get rid of the building, which he described as a horror to the community.
This included a negotiation between Carter Building Incorporated (CBI) and American Car and Foundry (ACF) Industries. ACF and the EPA entered into legal agreements in 2013, entrusting ACF with the responsibility for removing asbestos from the building and then for the complete demolition of the building. The demolition of the building began in 2015.
The next step ACF agreed to take was to remove all PCBs and TCEs from the soil at the superfund site.
According to Fowler, due to the agreement between the EPA and ACF, public money should not have been used to clean up this site. ACF covered all the expenses.
Jeff Weatherford, the EPA’s on-site coordinator for this project, told NPR that the contaminated waste will be trucked to a chemical waste landfill in Oklahoma. In total, the cleanup cost $ 30 million.
The second part of Fowler’s plan was to come up with an idea to replace the factory, which would be helpful to the neighborhood. The Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis is now working with the PGA REACH program to finalize the design and development of a golf center, which will replace the Carter carburetor factory.
Fowler said building a golf facility will introduce a very profitable sport to a community that is not much exposed to it.
“When you think of things like environmental justice and how some communities are left behind, the responsible parties are not being held accountable for what they are doing in some communities and it becomes an environmental crisis,” said Fowler. “This building was left in place for so long without too much pressure to get rid of it that it ultimately had an impact on the well-being and health of the neighborhood. Not only physical and psychological health, but also dynamism. “
The Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis and PGA REACH plan to meet in December and finalize a plan to build the golf center. Fowler said he hopes the facility will be ready by 2023.