The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

City focuses anew on New Bohemia brownfields; contaminated soil at former Iowa Steel and Iowa Iron Works sites to be removed to ready for redevelopment

In New Bohemia on July 20, 2009 at 1:12 pm

City Hall is taking a fresh step in its decade-long plan to clean up nearly 50 acres of old industrial sites a few blocks from the edge of downtown.

By early August, a contractor will begin excavating “contaminated soil” at the sites of the former Iowa Steel plant and the former Iowa Iron Works plant, which straddle the 400 block of 12th Avenue SE. These sites are just up the street from a Third Street SE commercial strip now considered the heart of the New Bohemia arts and entertainment district.

The city’s work order calls for the first six feet of ground at the former Iowa Steel site at 415 12th Ave. SE to be removed and hauled to the local landfill and for the first three feet of ground at the former Iowa Iron Works site at 400 12th Ave. SE, likewise, to be removed and hauled to the local landfill.

At that point, tests will be conducted to make sure no additional contaminants remain in the soil. Further excavation will take place if there are additional contaminants.

Richard Luther, the city’s development manager, reported on Monday that Rathje Construction Co., Marion, submitted the apparent low bid for the project of about $42,000, nearly $30,000 below the engineer’s estimate for the work, he said.

The city’s bid documents call for the work to be completed by Sept. 30. Once completed, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will issue a letter stating that no further action is necessary.

Luther said the two brownfield industrial sites can be redeveloped for commercial, office or residential use.

City documents note that the city is basing the scope of the excavations on an October 2005 report prepared by engineering firm Howard R. Green Co. of Cedar Rapids.

Of the two former metal plants, the Iowa Iron Works plant was demolished most recently, in the summer of 2001.

The city owns two other former industrial sites nearby, the empty former Quality Chef Co. building on Third Street SE and the empty former Sinclair meatpacking site at the end of Third Street SE.

Last week, council member Brian Fagan asked for updates on those two properties, both of which took on flood water in 2008. Fagan wondered when they might be demolished.

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