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Keokuk gets $2 million to clean up Elkem-Carbide site

The EPA’s Meg McCollister (right) presented a $2 million ceremonial check to Keokuk Mayor Kathie Mahoney and City Administrator Cole O’Donnell.
Rich Egger
The EPA’s Meg McCollister (right) presented a $2 million ceremonial check to Keokuk Mayor Kathie Mahoney and City Administrator Cole O’Donnell.

A $2 million brownfields grant from the US EPA will be used to start cleaning up contaminants from the abandoned Elkem-Carbide site on Carbide Lane.

“The significance of this grant cannot be overstated,” said Mayor Kathie Mahoney during an event at the site to announce the funding.

“Together we can turn brownfields into areas of progress.”

She called the grant a catalyst for change.

Meg McCollister, EPA Region 7 Administrator, said the site is full of potential.

“This is 80-acres in a prime location for sustainable, industrial development,” McCollister said.

“And this grant really proves environmental protection and economic development are not mutually exclusive. The two go hand-in-hand.”

She said the site has great highway and rail access, city storm water and sewer connections, and plenty of internet and electrical connectivity.

City Administrator Cole O’Donnell also focused on the redevelopment possibilities. He said the property will be separated into six sections:

  • Four of the sections will be remediated and developed for business and industrial use.
  • One of the parcels will be developed into a one-megawatt solar field in conjunction with Alliant Energy. “Alliant will receive energy credits, while the city will receive rent for the solar field,” O’Donnell said.
  • The sixth section could prove difficult to redevelop due to its topography. “(It) will be better suited for a nature/recreation area for businesses located at the site,” he said.

O’Donnell said those who helped the city during the process included the EPA, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, the Lee County Economic Development Group, and Impact7G, Inc.
The funding comes through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes $1.5 billion for addressing brownfields.

The Elkem-Carbide plant has been vacant for more than 16 years. It housed a zinc smelting facility and manufactured carbides. The EPA said the site is polluted with toxins such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals, and inorganic contaminants.

The city received an EPA brownfields assessment grant in 2021 to assess the site and develop a plan.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.