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Left: Barrels of chemicals and debris at the Site in the 1970s, prior to cleanup. Right: Over 100 volunteers helped plant the new pollinator habitat garden in September 2012.

From Superfund to Pollinator Prairie

EPA technical experts and other partners help turn a former Superfund site into a community asset.

The vision of a lush pollinator garden is undeniably alluring: the buzzing of bees, the constant flash of butterflies, and the occasional ghost-like appearance of hummingbirds. A riot of color and activity from early spring through late fall.

This vision is taking root at the “Pollinator Prairie,” planted by an army of community volunteers in September 2012.  Not only will it offer a place where people can reconnect with nature, but the surrounding plant life will provide migrating pollinators and other wildlife with needed food and refuge.

Science to Support Superfund Clean Up

One of the many members of the extensive partnership formed to cleanup the Chemical Commodities, Inc. Superfund site was EPA’s Robert Weber. Weber served a number of roles for the site, most recently as the Superfund and Technology Liaison (STL). STLs ensure that such efforts are scientifically and technically strong.

“STLs provide links between Superfund teams working locally with the collective expertise of EPA research programs and Technical Support Centers,” explains Weber. “The STL program, together with EPA’s Technical Support Centers provide high-quality, quick-response technical expertise on hazardous waste issues and are available to assist EPA regional hazardous waste program staff with support ranging from discussing new ideas to assisting with more complex planning and implementation of full-scale technical site activities.”Each of EPA's 10 regional offices has an STL who assists the regional Superfund staff with formulating cleanup decisions. The program was established in 1990 to facilitate regional access to EPA laboratories and experts within the Agency’s Office of Research and Development, provide technical support, and help integrate science and technology into decision-making for hazardous waste cleanup programs. 

For more information: www.epa.gov/osp/hstl.htm
The walk-through habitat is the crowning achievement in the clean up and remediation of the Chemical Commodities, Inc. Superfund site, which covers 1.5 acres in Olathe, Kansas. From 1951 until 1989, Chemical Commodities operated a chemical recycling and brokering facility there, taking in industrial chemicals that the company would store, reuse, repackage, and redistribute (broker).

According to records and reports from the local community, past work at the site was not always completed accurately. Spills and leaks of hazardous materials were not uncommon. Reports included fires and even the occasional explosion.

Investigations by EPA and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment revealed soil and ground water contamination from potentially troubling substances, including heavy metals, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and pesticides.

The Agency placed the site on its National Priorities List in 1994, spurring the formation of extensive plans to clean up the site and turn it into a community resource. The results of that work sparked the formation of partnerships with the EPA, the State of Kansas, local citizens, and the responsible party conducting the cleanup.

From 1989 to 2003, EPA conducted numerous actions to remove both immediate and long-term risks to human health and the nearby environment. In 2000, The Boeing Company, serving as the "responsible party" began the remedial investigation which was completed and approved in 2004. (11 former customers of Chemical Commodities, Inc signed the Consent Decree for the site, and the Boeing Company agreed to implement the remediation plan. Their work was recognized by EPA in October, 2012.)

EPA finalized a remediation strategy in 2005, which included excavation and treatment of contaminated soils, the demolition of remaining structures, and the construction of a groundwater treatment system onsite and within the surrounding neighborhood. In addition, an indoor air monitoring program resulted in the installation of mitigation systems set up in nearby residential homes to address potential risks from underlying groundwater contamination.

The EPA/State team , comprised of project managers, an on-scene coordinator, a community involvement coordinator, staff hydrogeologists, risk assessors/toxicologists, regional attorneys, and regional management staff, worked together to investigate, characterize, and develop remedial options for the site.

In January 2012, the hard work of this team paid off when the site reached "construction complete" status. As a result of this success, multiple EPA regional staff and the STL were invited to celebrate a major cleanup milestone—the return of the site to the community.

During the celebration, EPA awarded leaders of the Chemical Commodities Citizen's Advisory Group with the 2012 National Notable Achievement Award, Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement. The Citizen's Advisory Group was established in 2000 through EPA's community involvement process to serve as a bridge between the community, EPA, the State of Kansas, and the Boeing Company and ensure that the community's concerns were addressed.

It was this Group that worked with other stakeholders to recruit volunteers to help plant the new habitat and gardens that now grow where there were once hazardous waste, fire, and explosions. With the hard work and dedication to of all those involved in its construction, the Pollinator Prairie is likely to be a favorite for hungry birds, butterflies, and bees for years to come.

Learn More
Chemical Commodities, Inc. Superfund Progress Profile
EPA Region News Release - CCI Concerned Citizens Group to be Recognized for Successful Community Involvement at CCI Superfund Site in Olathe, Kan
Superfund and Technology Liaison Program


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