Source: http://blogs.twincities.com, April 18, 2013
The long saga of the state’s largest Superfund site took an interesting turn on Monday, April 15, when Ramsey County taxpayers became its landowners.
Ramsey County bought the final slice of TCAAP — the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant — in Arden Hills this week, leaving the county in charge of 427 acres from the 2,370-acre World War II-era munitions campus. The purchase price was $28 million.
As part of the deal worked out with the federal government, however, the cost of the environmental clean-up contract with the Carl Bolander and Sons Co. will be deducted from the purchase price, leaving the sale cost at $4.9 million, according to county officials.
More on the sale was in the Pioneer Press on Wednesday, April 17.
Leading up to the purchase, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., raised tough questions about the plans, without publicly withdrawing her backing for the process. In an April 1 letter to Ramsey County Manager Julie Kleinschmidt, McCollum said she supported “the county’s efforts as a closing date on the sale of this property approaches.”
“Nonetheless, I have been contacted frequently by Ramsey County residents who have voiced concerns and questions about the sale,” McCollum wrote. She pointed to three primary issues:
1.) Had the county completed a “full and complete” environmental remediation study, according to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) guidelines?
2.) Had the county examined any legal liabilities it might incur from eventually transferring polluted land to a developer? The MPCA has already issued the county a “No Association” letter, intended to shield the county from pollution caused by the prior owner — namely, the federal government — but McCollum noted that the “No Association” letter has “limited protection against future regulatory actions by the state or federal agencies, and a ‘No Association’ letter does not include any third party liability protection.”
3.) McCollum also asked for the rationale for acquiring the land “as is,” the dollar value for the clean-up contracts with Bolander and Wenck, how those costs were determined without a complete remediation study, and whatever “assurances the county has which will provide liability protection for the county against adverse actions” of the contractors.
County officials tackled each concern, point by point. In a letter dated April 10, Kleinschmidt informed McCollum’s office that the law firm of Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty and Bennett had been advising the county since February 2011 on remediation “to ensure that the county avoids potential liability arising from the United States Army’s prior use of the site.”
Kleinschmidt referred McCollum to the project website at www.tcaap.net, as well as a letter from the law firm. In its letter, attorneys with Gray, Plant, Mooty noted that Ramsey County extended an offer to purchase the 427 acres on Dec. 12. The two-part sale that closed Monday, April 15 involves the initial purchase of 397 acres that had been previously cleaned up to industrial standards.
The remaining 30 acres has “residual soil contamination,” and that land will be leased from the federal government until the environmental remediation is finished. “Once the clean-up is complete, Ramsey County will take title to the leased property,” the attorneys wrote.
Even after the property transfer, “the federal government will retain liability for groundwater remediation and certain other environmental liabilities,” they wrote. Bolander will complete the clean-up for a fixed fee of $22.57 million, which will be credited against the purchase price, and indemnify the county against “all liability incurred because of any act or omission of Bolander or its agency.”
Bolander, and its subcontractor Wenck Associates, Inc., is expected to work with Ramsey County, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the MPCA throughout the clean-up.
The attorneys noted that several environmental and health-based studies were conducted on the TCAAP site between 1983 and 1994. Formal environmental studies became the basis of three U.S. Army, MPCA and EPA “Records of Decision” about how to proceed with the site in 1992 and 1997. After those decisions were issued, the site was cleaned up to industrial standards.
As for liabilities, the attorneys noted that the county had worked with the MPCA through the state’s Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup Program, VIC. “Under Minnesota law, if Ramsey County completed an approved, voluntary clean-up, it will not thereafter be held responsible for contamination at issue,” they wrote. The county has also bought environmental insurance as an additional safeguard.
As for acquiring the TCAAP property “as is,” the attorney said that the county will not take title to the final 30 acres until an official federal finding that “all remedial action necessary to protect human health and the environment” had been made. That determination was already made for the first 397 acres.
Ramsey County expects clean-up to take 3 to 5 years, at which point officials hope the land will be attractive for a developer to purchase and figure out what to do with. It’s unlikely that those uses will include a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, as that pony has already brayed…