By Mark Schlinkmann
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
November 4, 1999

Thousands of tons of material stockpiled to fill the big hole left by The Arena's demolition fails to meet state environmental standards, St. Louis officials announced Wednesday.

Phillip Hoge, a top city development official, said the contractor involved - Spirtas Wrecking Co. - must haul away the ground-up concrete, brick and rock piled next to the 15-foot-deep crater. Other material will be transported there to take its place, Hoge said.

Chris Cady, an environmental specialist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said lab tests of samples of the material turned up unacceptable levels of motor oil and hydrocarbons from diesel. There also was some lead and PCBs but not in excess of state standards.

Cady said, however, that the levels of contamination will not affect neighboring residents and workers.

"There is no health risk to the neighbors for the short time the material has been there and the time it will take to remove it," he said in a statement released by the city.

The rejection of the fill by the state agency further delays the cleanup under way since the Feb. 27 implosion of the 70-year-old landmark. Officials had hoped to clear the site by July 1.

But Hoge said the new delay should not keep a developer from proceeding with plans to begin construction of a $21 million office building on another part of the site by the end of the year. It's the first part of a planned office park.

The rejection was based on about 5 gallons sampled from the 20,000 cubic yards of fill material.

Eric Spirtas, president of Spirtas Wrecking, said about two-thirds of the material is recycled construction debris hauled to the site last winter from an East St. Louis recycling facility run by the company. The remainder, he said, was Arena rubble smashed into small particles on site. Most of the Arena debris was hauled elsewhere.

Hoge said the city expects Spirtas' firm to shoulder any extra cost due to the rejection. "That is on their nickel," he said. "I have full expectations they will cooperate with us."

Spirtas said his company was disappointed at the state's decision but would "work diligently with the city to assure that the project proceeds effectively."

He added that the company was reviewing the decision and didn't know whether it would contest any of it. He said the fill material would have met general standards but that regulations for this project were different because the state was footing the bill. Cady declined to comment on that.

The city is to pay Spirtas and its subcontractors $694,288 plus costs of cleaning up an unrelated underground fuel spill discovered after the implosion.


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